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Angela Rayner email: Benjamin Iliffe gets suspended sentence after he admitted sending threatening message to Labour deputy leader

·4 min read

A former delivery driver has been given a suspended sentence after he admitted sending a threatening email to Angela Rayner in which he told Labour's deputy leader to "watch your back and your kids".

Benjamin Iliffe, from Cambridgeshire, was sentenced at Huntingdon Magistrates' Court to 15 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months.

The 36-year-old sent the message from his personal account on 16 October and was arrested on Wednesday, the court heard.

The court was also told that Iliffe sent the message because he felt she was "partially responsible" for the killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess after she called the Tories "scum".

The email told mother-of-three Ms Rayner to "watch your back and your kids" and added: "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 [by the way].

"I already found your personal home address."

A probation officer told Iliffe's sentencing hearing that he felt "angry" after Ms Rayner's comments, which were made during the Labour Party conference in September.

"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," the officer told the court.

"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 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 before.

Iliffe wanted to apologise to Ms Rayner and was "tearful" when talking about the impact his message may have had on her with the probation officer, the court heard.

"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," the officer told the court.

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

Iliffe, who also admitted possessing a quantity of cannabis when he was arrested, appeared by video-link from Thorpe Wood police station in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

He was made the subject of a two-year restraining order which requires him not to contact Ms Rayner directly or indirectly, not to communicate with her on social media and not to go to her office in Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester.

Iliffe was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and 35 days of rehabilitation activity.

In addition he will have to pay £85 costs, a £128 victim surcharge and was fined £50 for the cannabis, which was ordered to be forfeited and destroyed.

Sentencing Iliffe, presiding magistrate Andrew Riddington 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."

But he said the sentence could be suspended due to credit for Iliffe's guilty pleas and the "remorse shown".

Mr Riddington expressed his hope that the rehabilitation activity would help Iliffe with his "low self esteem" and "drug use".

Claire Thorneley, who mitigated for the defendant, said he had no previous convictions.

"It's one email sent from his own personal account with no attempt to disguise himself," she told the court.

"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."

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."

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

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

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