Martin Brookes in court on harassment and stalking charges

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A former Oakham town councillor has appeared in court accused of harassing and stalking three people including a town councillor and the chief executive of Rutland County Council.

Martin Brookes, 47, of Willow Crescent, Oakham, appeared before district judge John Temperley at Leicester Magistrates Court yesterday (Monday) to face three charges of harassment and three charges of stalking Oakham town councillor Charles Howarth, Rutland County Council chief executive Helen Briggs and policeman Christopher Wharton.

Brookes has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are alleged to have happened between December 15 and June 6.

John Western, prosecuting, told the court that Brookes’ open blogs and tweets were criticisms of how the people concerned performed their public duties.

Mr Western said: “Mr Howarth reported telephone calls, texts and physical confrontation against a background of animosity.”

The court heard that Mr Howarth has used his anonymous blog The Laughing Stocks to “seek retribution” against Brookes.

In Mrs Briggs’ case, the prosecutor said, the complaints against Brookes included “a number of blog posts and e-mails that challenged her personal integrity”.

It was a case of “badgering, hectoring and harassing three individuals, all of whom are in public service in one way or another in Oakham”, Mr Western added.

Giving evidence, Mr Howarth said Brookes made silent phone calls to him and sent text messages, including “dozens” of texts between 6pm and 1am on one occasion.

He told of how the police were called after Brookes went to a surgery held with another Oakham town councillor on March 23 and refused to leave.

Mr Howarth said he also saw Brookes when he went to the police station, outside his home, with a camera round his neck, and when he went to the town’s library.

Defending solicitor David Swingler said: “When you go on Mr Brookes’ blog there is no getting away from it that Mr Brookes is the author. He has never posted anything anonymous.”

He asked Mr Howarth why his blog was anonymous.

Mr Howarth said the stories on his website were already in the public domain and his blogs were “satirical” versions of what others had written.

When asked why then some of the blogs had cast “various aspersions” about Brookes, Mr Howarth said they were “just a joke”.

Brookes complained about the blog and Mr Howarth was arrested on January 16. He closed down the site and was told there would be no further action.

During three hours of cross examination, Mr Swingler said the police data of Brookes’ mobile phone had shown four texts were sent on the afternoon of Sunday, March 17, and not dozens between 6pm and 1am as Mr Howarth had said.

Mr Swingler also said when police were called to the town hall surgery Brookes told them he was staging a “silent protest” and would not leave until he had answers to questions about a development project and had ascertained whether Mr Howarth was the author of Laughing Stocks.

Mr Swingler said Brookes was not outside Mr Howarth’s house but about 80 to 90 metres from the property, to photograph the development site.

Brooke’s presence outside the police station was out of public interest, he said.

And as for being at the library while Mr Howarth was present, Mr Swingler said: “There’s nothing to say it was anything other than a coincidence.”

The trial continues.