As people may know, for over a year now, blogger and July 7 Inquiry campaigner Rachel North has been subjected to an unending stream of abusive emails and completely bizarre attacks, including utterly preposterous malicious complaints to the police from a woman she’s never met, Felicity Jane Lowde. This goes well beyond the sort of trolling and flaming that many of us are used to and can shrug off; it’s truly sickening and frightening stuff. For some samples, see here and here. Lowde has conducted a deliberate and long-lasting campaign to destroy Rachel’s personal and professional life with nasty and damaging attacks on her and her family.
Rachel tried politely asking her to stop, then tried ignoring it and eventually took the matter to the police. Lowde was charged with harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, bailed on conditions that she broke, was re-arrested and re-bailed. She promptly broke those conditions, too, and went on the run. She remained in touch with her lawyers, though, and continued to blog about the affair, in increasingly bizarre terms.
Lowde was well aware of her trial date, set for February of this year and then put back until April 2nd. She did not attend court, despite her boasts only a day or so previously about what a famous victory she was about to achieve — by showing the court the entire contents of her blog, apparently — and how Rachel, several other bloggers to whom she’s taken against and police officers would all end up in prison as a result.
The trial proceeded in her absence, as she had been warned it would if she did not attend without reasonable excuse, and she was convicted. A bench warrant was issued for her arrest. When she’s eventually arrested, she’ll be sentenced and have the opportunity to appeal, within days, against both conviction and sentence to a bench comprising a crown court judge and two magistrates.
In the meantime, however, she is still at large and is obsessively bombarding Rachel with emails of such vitriol and frequency that Rachel — who, as we know, is a woman of great courage and determination, is now frightened — not least because Lowde has discovered her home address.
Rachel has asked bloggers to help the police capture this convicted criminal who almost certainly needs psychiatric help and most definitely needs getting out of Rachel’s life. Lowde is thought to be living rough in London, where she is using internet cafes to continue to harass Rachel. She sometimes, though, seems briefly to return to Oxford, where her home was before she went on the run. There are further details, including an old (10 year old) photo of her, on Rachel’s blog.
If you see her – she is believed to be using internet cafes in London and periodically travelling to Oxford – please do not approach her.
Do not respond to her blog.
Instead, please immediately call your local police or CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111 with a description of her and her location, (grab a pic on your mobile if you can) , and say that you have a sighting of Felicity Jane Lowde, convicted stalker/harasser – who is wanted for arrest and sentencing.
As Rachel says,
Remember, stalking and harassment are crimes, and she was found guilty under the ten-year-old 1997 Protection From Harassment Act. Voluntary or imposed internet use regulation codes do not work with someone like Lowde. Therefore I say that the best way to protect free speech and blogging from the damage done to it by people like Felicity Lowde is to use the internet for good purposes. We do not need to be regulated, we can look after ourselves and our own, and we can self-regulate. Here is an opportunity to help the police bring a woman who brings blogging into disrepute, to justice, and to do so safely and legally.
Please do not do anything that could jeopardise her arrest and sentencing. Please do not respond to her or anything she says. Please just help the police do their job of bringing her to justice.
This is nothing to do with freedom of speech. It’s to do with helping the police to enforce the judgment of the court on someone convicted of harassment, a crime against the person just as much as is a physical assault.