Man accused of stalking tells court he was bullied online

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A man accused of stalking a council chief executive and a town councillor has told a court he was the victim of online bullying.

Former Oakham town councillor Martin Brookes said the personal attacks on blog sites caused him “a lot of harm” and were intended to “bully and isolate” him.

Brookes, 47, of Willow Crescent, Oakham denies stalking and harassing Oakham town councillor Charles Howarth and Rutland County Council chief executive Helen Briggs.

Day four of the trial, this time sitting at Loughborough Magistrates Court, was told Brookes was baited and insulted on a blog called Rutland Chat Forum.

Doris Cooke, an employee of Melton Borough Council and moderator of the now closed blog, told the court Brookes was called a paedophile, there were homosexual jibes and taunts and “lots of nasty messages”.

Many were from a user called Lardboy who she believed to be Coun Howarth.

Brookes told the court the attacks had affected his life.

He said: “The police had to come and tell my neighbours that I was not a paedophile.”

The trial had previously heard that the anonymous blog Laughing Stocks set up by Coun Howarth had also been used to attack Brookes.

Defence solicitor David Swingler asked Brookes: “Having looked at Laughing Stocks blog what would you consider as its aim?”

Brookes said: “It was used to isolate and bully me.”

The court also heard that a forum known as Planet Neptune was set up to force Brookes to take down blogs he had posted on his own site, on which he had named people who he believed were attacking him on the Rutland Chat Forum.

Brookes said: “Planet Neptune was set up when I became councillor. They seemed to think it was abusive to name people who were upsetting me and my friends. Planet Neptune was blackmailing me. I did eventually give in and remove the blog.”

Brookes said he started his blog after learning who the members of the Rutland Chat Forum were and published photos of them as they were connected to the council.

He complained to the council but said: “The council said they could do nothing about it. When I realised who some of the people were (on the forum) that’s when my political involvement started.”

He added: “Someone had attacked me since 2008 and when I reported it to the police I had the right to know who that person was. I got no support.

“The blogs caused me a lot of harm. I cannot get a job. When you Google my name it comes up.”

Brookes said his troubles in Oakham began when he posted a picture of members of the town council drinking by the bandstand during a concert.

He said: “A former mayor had publicly said in a newspaper that we should not drink in public. So when I saw them I took a photograph and posted it on Flickr (website) alongside the article with a comment saying ‘Is this not hypocrisy?’

“I believe that’s when my problems started.”

Brookes was on Oakham Town Council twice but stepped down the first time after a few months because he said the attacks became “unbearable”.

He was banned from office the second time after putting an indecent image on the council notice board, which he said had been sent to him and he “considered to be bullying”.

He told the court: “In hindsight I should not have done it.”

At earlier hearings the court had heard that Brookes was accused of sending dozens of texts to Coun Howarth, taking photographs of him as he left a police station and he was seen outside the councillor’s house.

Asked by his defence to explain the texts, Brookes said they may have been caused by an app known as “Chomps” which breaks up several pages of text messages into a series of individual messages.

He said the texts were to find out if the councillor had been arrested (after Brookes’ complaint) and the phone calls were to ask if he was the author of Laughing Stocks.

Brookes denied making anonymous calls. He also said he was in the street where the councillor lived to photograph an historic tree and a development site and was not outside his house.

He said he took pictures while the councillor was outside the police station because he believed it was “in the public interest”.

The court had also been told at an earlier hearing that he had criticised Mrs Briggs’ on his blog.

Brookes said: “I am exercising my right to free speech.”

Asked about allegations that the council had “manipulated” the police, Brookes said it was because an officer had told him he should “move” from Oakham and had file copies of every e-mail he had ever sent to the chief executive.

Brookes said he copied e-mails sent to Mrs Briggs to Rutland MP Alan Duncan, the leader of Rutland County Council and the council’s head of legal services because he did not want his problem to be ignored.

The trial continues on Monday at Leicester Magistrates Court when Brookes is due to be 
cross examined by the prosecution.