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Online troll who abused Labour MP over low traffic neighbourhoods sentenced

Brian Haven claimed he had been wound up by radio talk shows – highlighting that divisive rhetoric can have real-life consequences

An online troll who sent a Labour MP abusive emails regarding low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) has been handed a suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to harassment.

Brian Haven, from Brixton, also accused Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi of acting in collusion with property developers and made offensive comments about her physical appearance, says the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Haven sent a number of emails to the MP between 15 December 2020 and 1 February 2021, and according to the CPS, the 59-year-old claimed he had been wound up through listening to radio talk shows.

Haven blamed Ms Eshalomi for the introduction of LTNs by Lambeth Council – even though such schemes are the responsibility of the borough, and the MP has no influence over them.

He told her to cancel a fixed penalty notice he had received, saying: “I expect all Lambeth LTN tickets to be removed … I am not here to debate.”

On Wednesday, Haven was sentenced at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to eight weeks in custody suspended for 18 months after pleading guilty to one count of harassment at an earlier hearing.

He was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work, pay £500 in compensation to the victim and handed a restraining order prohibiting him from directly or indirectly contacting the victim for five years.

Michael Phillips, a Senior Crown Prosecutor within the Complex Casework unit in CPS London South, said: “These emails contained highly personal attacks focused on the physical appearance and character of an elected Member of Parliament. They were abusive, offensive and amounted to harassment.

“Haven’s actions made the victim feel worried about her personal safety and left her distressed.

“During police interview Haven admitted to sending the emails and claimed he had done so after getting wound up listening to talk shows on the radio through lockdown.

“Nobody should be subjected to such vile behaviour for carrying out their civic duty and the CPS will always aim to prosecute offenders who target elected individuals where there is the evidence to do so,” he added.

We’ve reported of a number of instances of hosts of radio chat shows programmes using LTNs to stoke a ‘debate’ on the issue.

Coverage of LTNs in print and broadcast media also often helps perpetuate widely held misconceptions about them, such as blocking access to residents or emergency services, both of which are incorrect.

> “Shameful”: BBC “perpetuated falsehoods” in divisive low traffic neighbourhood report

And as with newspaper columnists who write about laying booby traps for cyclists, by fanning the flames of opposition to LTNs, there is a real danger that some people will be emboldened to take matters into their own hands – whether by moving or vandalising planters, CCTV cameras or traffic counters, or even making death threats to councillors implementing them, as has happened in at least two London boroughs.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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