I open this stage of my story with a disclaimer. Until I learnt of Mr Laverty’s pending trial and Mr Just’s arrest on Twitter, I had never met or spoken to either of these men. I had not had any dealings with Sonia Poulton either.
Another tweeter supplied me Mr Just’s e-mail, and I made contact on 8 January. I also got Mr Laverty’s phone number via an NUJ colleague, and asked him if I could contact his solicitor. He explained that he had been arrested first in respect of Poulton’s allegations in April 2016, and then again in September 2016 in respect of Baker’s complaints. His family were frightened and upset at what had happened.
Mr Just told me that he ran a blog named “Real Troll Exposure”, which I had occasionally looked at in the past, although without previously knowing the author. I had thought the blogs were entirely legitimate comment and expressions of opinion. Mr Just is a retired IT consultant who is experienced in open source media research.
He explained that he had provided Mr Laverty’s solicitor with a defence statement, but that the Met had arrested him without showing him a warrant, and had seized all his confidential communications with Mr Laverty’s solicitor which were (of course) subject to Mr Laverty’s legal professional privilege.
He was severely vexed because he said that Baker had made identical allegations against him via Merseyside police and that he had given a detailed statement to his home force in Cumbria, which decided to take no further action, only a few weeks previously. He could not understand why the Met had then raided him in respect of the self-same claims. Neither he nor Baker has any connection with London.
I thought this sounded sinister. He further explained that Baker was alleging he ran another blog named Twitterati, and that he operated a Twitter handle @scsidrive. He said that none of this was true, and that the Met had made no attempt to investigate who was responsible for these two outlets before storming in.
I knew of the Twitter handle, which was amusing, and which I and others followed. It was alternately critical and mocking of Baker and her antagonism towards the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse. It was alternately critical and mocking of her Svengali, Graham Wilmer, and his activist son Rory (who lives in Prague). It ridiculed one of Baker’s most notorious troll supporters as “the Pantomime Dame”. None of this was in any way criminal. To suggest otherwise was ludicrous.
I knew from previous experience of reporting anonymous Twitter handles to the Met that they do not accept a complainant’s say-so about ownership: that has to be established independently, by the police contacting the site operator to find out what phone number and e-mail address is connected to the account. Only then can they identify a suspect.
I thought that Baker’s attack on a defence witness in her criminal complaint against Laverty seemed highly suspect. Surely this was a form of witness intimidation? Mr Just certainly thought so. The timing spoke for itself.
On 11 January 2017, the two cases against Mr Laverty were consolidated at Kingston Crown Court, which listed a trial for a week, starting 19 June 2017.
Phillimore weighs in
On 15 January 2017, my long-suffering solicitors (whom Phillimore had been hounding with bombastic, querulant complaints) forwarded me a bizarre letter from her. Evidently, she had been communing with Baker. She wrote:
I am particularly concerned to note that she [meaning me] refers to me directly by name.
I have made my position regarding this kind of harassment from Ms Hewson extremely clear. It will not be tolerated [….] I cannot tolerate this behaviour continuing [….]
I do not think I am over-reacting or unduly sensitive about Ms Hewson’s continued on line activities [She was clearly massively overreacting! Or else lying through her teeth] ……one of Ms Hewson’s followers, Darren Laverty, has recently been arrested and charged with stalking Esther Baker and a female journalist who wishes to remain anonymous [Sonia Poulton]. Ms Hewson has enthusiastically encouraged such abuse of Ms Baker over very many months and engaged in direct abuse and harassment of Ms Baker. I have screen shots and archived links to very many of her publications should you require those.
Similarly, Simon Just has recently been arrested for stalking Esther Baker. It is highly likely that Mr Just is responsible for the twitter account @scisdrive [sic] as that account was deleted shortly after his arrest. Ms Hewson has, again for many months, engaged in public conversations with @scisdrive [sic], making repeated and direct reference to Ms Baker in very crude and offensive terms.
It’s hard to see why Phillimore, who had until then been threatening legal action against me herself, should suddenly start waxing indignant on Baker’s behalf.
Phillimore’s claim that I had “enthusiastically encouraged” Mr Laverty’s alleged treatment of Baker was pure invention. Her bogus claim has never been substantiated, incidentally. Similarly, her claim that I engaged in “direct abuse and harassment” of Baker over very many months is pure invention.
As for my interactions with @scsidrive, which was mordantly funny about Baker’s absurd pretensions, mysteriously Phillimore never produced a single example to substantiate her claim that I had used either crude or offensive language about Baker.
From memory, I had once tweeted Baker, “Begone, bin goblin!” in January 2016, after pointing out her tweets to the revolting anti-Semite Charles Frith. (Not the only anti-Semite Baker liked schmoozing with, incidentally).
The expression “bin goblin” means a minor troll, and was invented by that master Twitter satirist, Godfrey Elfwick. To describe this as crude or offensive language is absurd.
You don’t suppose Baker was using Phillimore as a legal adviser, do you? It is difficult to think of any sensible reason why Phillimore should start involving herself in Baker’s affairs, which on the face of it had absolutely nothing to do with Phillimore.
The sharp-eyed reader will also have spotted that Phillimore was concealing Poulton’s identity, presumably at Poulton’s request, even though it was by then public knowledge that Poulton was Baker’s co-complainant.
Phillimore’s volte face
Prior to September 2016 (when Baker managed to get Mr Laverty arrested), Phillimore had been taunting me from an aggressive “free speech” stance. For example, just as she was heading off on vacation to Los Angeles in August, she posted a spiteful Blog No. 2 about me. She made clear, during that vacation thousands of miles away, that she was monitoring and screen grabbing my Twitter output. This is a creepy form of stalking behaviour, of course.
But in September 2016, she did an abrupt volte face and started encouraging others to report me. When I protested that this was harassment, she retaliated by accusing me of unlawful harassment, initially in a letter to my chambers, then via a complaint to the BSB, and then in letters threatening to take out an injunction against me, all within the space of some two and a half weeks.
Her demands became increasingly peremptory. When my solicitors offered to provide a substantive reply, she loftily told them that she was not interested in what they had to say on my behalf. So much for the Pre-Action Protocol!
With hindsight, I think that she had decided to take a leaf out of Baker’s book, and to assume the victim mantle herself.
Both women shamelessly embraced a bogus construct of victimhood, pretending that anyone who had the temerity to discuss them with others, ridiculed their pretensions, or stood up to them in any way, shape or form was engaged in unlawful – even criminal – harassment. Such a stance was completely untenable, especially given their own online aggression.
In reality, the Twitter handle @scsidrive was innocuous, as I have pointed out earlier in this post. The Twitterati blog, of which Baker also complained, was a robust critic of Baker’s claims about herself and her online behaviour, yet Baker’s response was to call the cops.
This is barking, but in an era of “believe the victim”, even bogus or obviously questionable allegations are treated with an extraordinary credulity. Such is the monstrous tyranny of victimhood nowadays.
Let’s unpick Phillimore’s extraordinary allegations of 15 January 2017, which are (as they always were with Phillimore) as extravagant as they are hopelessly unparticularised. Note how she slavishly repeats Baker’s false claim about who operated the @scsidrive handle.
Enter an anonymised “source”
Remarkably, Phillimore forwarded on to my solicitors an e-mail from someone else – whose identity she had blanked out – timed at 14 January 2017 at 23.36. No doubt readers will ask themselves why Phillimore did this, and wonder who her correspondent was. (My guess is Davis. Any other suggestions?).
Mr/ Ms ANONYMISED listed a series of links with the commentary:
“Unfortunately she is back to harassing yourself and other Twitter users. It should be noted that the Twitter account @Esther9982 has blocked Hewson, yet Hewson is monitoring Ms Baker’s tweets. The tweets she has done about Ms Baker and @ciabaudo have also been archived, should they be required.
Screenshots and archive links follow.
https://web.archive.org/web/20170114200619/https:/twitter.com/BarbaraHewson/status/820356361598930945 she is replying to a tweet you did in May 2016.
In other words – this is being coordinated by others behind the scenes, who are not prepared to be identified. Now why is that?
And ask yourself how any barrister with an ounce of scruple or professional backbone could allow herself to be used in this underhand way.
Anatomy of a false allegation
The methodology works like this:
- Get a mate to download some innocuous posts.
- Pretend they constitute something unlawful and shocking.
- Let mate e-mail Phillimore, usually very late at night, who can then indignantly contact my solicitors (and any authority figure she can think of) to voice outrage and demand action.
- In the absence of instant capitulation to her demands, keep up the same officious pestering.
I offer a bottle of Pol Roger to anyone who can explain to me just how any of the content that Phillimore and her creepy anonymised source submitted above could sensibly be called “harassing”.
It is painfully obvious that Phillimore, her anonymised conspiratorial source and – by extension – Baker, were talking utter nonsense, as they must have known. Their complaints were unfounded and, frankly, vexatious.
Following this e-mail, Phillimore’s attacks – and by extension that of Baker’s deluded fanbase – ramped up even more. It’s revealing that a criminal QC, whom I saw the following month to advise me on Phillimore’s repetitive allegations of unlawful conduct, began our conference with the words:
I think she’s barmy.
I am afraid that was an understatement.
It’s getting late, so I will stop here. Part 3 of The Devils’ Cleaners will go up sometime tomorrow.
Good night all!
To be continued.
Up-dated with additional comments on December 19th-21st.