Pensioner convicted of sending abusive emails to mayor over Colston statue

A pensioner has been convicted of sending abusive emails to a politician in the wake of the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston, prosecutors said.

Fleetwood Spence, 72, sent six “grossly offensive and really aggressive” messages to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees a day after the controversial statue was pulled from its plinth.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century slave merchant was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol city centre on June 7 last year, before being dumped in the harbour.

The statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down from its plinth in Bristol city centre (PA).
The statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down from its plinth in Bristol city centre (Ben Birchall/PA)

The following day – after Mr Rees said he could not condone the damage to the statue but felt no “loss” over its removal – Spence sent the emails to the mayor’s office using the anonymous Guerrilla mail service.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the emails to Mr Rees were abusive, aggressive and threatened violence to those who supported the removal of the statue.

The police were informed and investigations revealed all the emails originated from Spence’s IP address.

Officers from Merseyside Police visited his home address in Irby, Wirral, and showed him the emails, which he did not think were offensive.

The CPS said Spence was later interviewed on August 20 and admitted he had sent the emails and that he felt embarrassed about them.

He admitted he had been drinking when he sent them and said he feared the protesters would go on to damage statues of the wartime leader Winston Churchill.

Spence sent the 'offensive' emails to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees (PA).
Spence sent the ‘offensive’ emails to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees (PA)

On January 11 at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, Spence pleaded guilty to sending malicious communications, the CPS said.

He was given a 24-week overnight curfew and must not leave his home between 7pm and 7am. Spence was also ordered to pay £85 costs and a victim surcharge of £95.

Associate prosecutor Andrew Page, of the CPS, said: “The emails Mr Fleetwood sent on that night were grossly offensive and really aggressive.

“The fact that he had been drinking when he sent them is irrelevant. He sent them to a public official who was in no way condoning what had happened in Bristol the day before.

“Mr Fleetwood is clearly embarrassed at what he did on that night and pleaded guilty to the offence.

“People sometimes think they can write what they want to others, on their devices behind closed doors.

“But there are laws to protect the public from malicious and offensive communications and, on that night, Mr Fleetwood crossed the line into criminality and he has paid the price.

“I hope this case is a lesson to others who take to their keyboards to spread offence and upset.”

Colston’s involvement in the slave trade through the British-based Royal African Company was the source of much of the money which he bestowed on Bristol.

The statue was one of a number of landmarks in the city to bear Colston’s name, although music venue Colston Hall was recently renamed as part of a major refurbishment.

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS