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Man who emailed Rayner felt she was ‘partially responsible’ for Amess death

·5-min read

A former delivery driver sent deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner a threatening email because he felt she was “partially responsible” for the attack on Sir David Amess after she called the Conservative party “scum”, a court heard.

Benjamin Iliffe, 36, sent a threatening email from his personal account on October 16 and was arrested on Wednesday, Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court heard.

The defendant, who appeared by video-link from Thorpe Wood police station in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, warned Ms Rayner to “watch your back and your kids” in the email.

He admitted sending a threatening email, and also pleaded guilty to possessing a quantity of cannabis on Wednesday when he was arrested.

During his sentencing hearing on Thursday, a probation officer told the court he had spoken to Iliffe who he said felt “angry” after Rayner’s comments, which she made during a Labour Party conference reception in September.

Sir David, a Conservative politician for Southend West, was attacked at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on October 15. He died of his injuries.

During the hearing at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court, the officer said: “He informed me that following the death of Sir David Amess MP, he felt angry at the victim who – he states – described a member of the Conservative Party previously or referred to them as ‘scum’. He reports that he felt she was making light of the situation and felt angry as a result of this.

Sir David Amess death
Sir David Amess was attacked at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex (Chris McAndrew/PA)

“He stated he wanted to vent, and felt that somebody needed to tell her she was partially responsible for the attack following her use of language.

“When reflecting on this matter he accepted he had expressed himself wrong, and he himself had also used the wrong language in order to communicate his point.”

The probation officer said Iliffe “recognised the impact this had on the victim and those who worked with her and read the emails” as he himself has been beaten up in the past.

The court heard Iliffe wanted to apologise to Rayner and was “tearful” when discussing the impact his email may have had on her with the probation officer.

The probation officer told the court: “In my opinion, this current offence was deliberate and intentional to harm the victim as Mr Iliffe wanted her to feel accountable for what he believed she had contributed to.

“However, he accepted, in hindsight, it was ill-considered and sent impulsively.”

Following the hearing, Ms Rayner apologised “unreservedly” for her Tory “scum” comments at the party’s conference as she “reflected on our political debate and the threats and abuse that now seem to feature all too often”.

In a Facebook post, she added: “I want to address the threats I have received recently. In the past I have been reluctant to speak out about the abuse that I receive because I fear that doing so will only make the situation worse.

“However, in recent weeks the threats that I have received against my life and the lives of close family have been so terrifying and explicit that I could not stay silent and simply continue to take it as ‘part of the job’.

“They have had a devastating impact on me, my children and others close to me.”

The court heard the email to Ms Rayner said: “Promise you c***.

“There’s so many people in this country now, after your poster boy murdered an Englishman who are coming after you now c***.

“You were easy to find btw.

“I already found your personal home address.”

Presiding magistrate Andrew Riddington, sentencing on Thursday, said: “We believe that the offences are so serious that it does cross the custody threshold.

“It’s so serious because of the psychological harm caused to a public servant.”

However, he said the sentence could be suspended after credit for Iliffe’s guilty pleas and the “remorse shown”.

Mr Riddington said he hoped the rehabilitation activity would help the defendant with his “low self esteem” and “drug use”.

Claire Thorneley, mitigating, said Iliffe had no previous convictions.

“It’s one email sent from his own personal account with no attempt to disguise himself,” she said.

“He made full admissions in police interview as to his conduct. He was very apologetic and remorseful.

“He’s expressed twice that he would wish an opportunity to apologise personally to Ms Rayner for the fear and distress he caused.”

Iliffe, of Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, was sentenced to 15 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months.

Sir David Amess death
Floral tributes left outside the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea (Joe Giddens/PA)

He was handed a two-year restraining order not to contact Ms Rayner directly or indirectly, not to talk about her on social media and not to go to her office in Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester.

The defendant was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and 35 days of a rehabilitation activity.

He was made to pay £85 costs, a £128 victim surcharge and fined £50 for the cannabis, which was ordered to be forfeited and destroyed.

Detective Sergeant Christopher Dean, from Greater Manchester Police’s Tameside CID, said: “I hope this sends a message to those wishing to send threats and abuse online to think again – we will take robust action – people should never live in fear.”

The force said a 70-year-old man has also been arrested in conjunction with South Yorkshire Police on suspicion of malicious communication and remained in custody.

He was arrested in relation to emails received on October 16, while a 52-year-old was arrested in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and bailed over abusive phone calls Ms Rayner received a day earlier.

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