25th September 2016
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Recluse fined over abusive letters to SNP MP

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A recluse who sent threatening and abusive letters to a female Scottish MP has been handed a five year non-harassment order and fined £500.

Mossbank resident David Crozier sent the letters to SNP trade and investment spokeswoman Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.

The letters, sent between 23rd and 26th May, contained offensive and abusive comments aggravated by religious prejudice.

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard Crozier, 68, had also sent letters to high-profile BBC journalist John Humphrys and the cast of Dr Who.

Sentence had previously been deferred for background reports.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said the complainer was the SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire – someone who enjoys a high profile in the media, and in the Houses of Parliament.

“His only reason for corresponding with her was because of her faith,” he said.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.

The MP was concerned enough to pass the correspondence on to the Sergeant-at-Arms. The letter was then given to the Metropolitan Police, before being brought before officers in the isles.

Their enquiries led them to make enquiries at Alistair Carmichael’s offices in Lerwick, where Crozier’s hand-writing was immediately recognised.

“He is someone who is a serial correspondent,” Mr MacKenzie added.

Mr MacKenzie said that Crozier was interviewed by police, but initially did not appear to see anything wrong with what he had done.

“He thought he was expressing an opinion and using his right to freedom of speech,” the fiscal said.

However, he added there seemed to be an acknowledgement that some of the comments made could “never be justified”.

The court heard Crozier was effectively a recluse with no telephone, no mobile and no internet.

“However, the complainer had no idea about the nature of the accused. The letters were anonymous. She was working away from her family in London for substantial periods of time, attending to parliamentary duties, and she had very real concerns about her safety,” the fiscal added.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said Crozier had never been in court before, and had led his life in much the way he had wanted to live it.

“Given where he lives, in a rural area of Shetland, with no phone, no mobile phone, and no access to internet, it is perhaps difficult to see how he could have got himself into a situation where he has caused such offence.”

He added investigations had shown Crozier had also written letters to Mr Humphrys and Dr Who actors.

Mr Allan said Crozier had nowhere to “let off steam”, and had found a way of doing so by writing letters.

But he said Crozier’s views had changed since his initial argument that he was practising his freedom of speech.

“His initial bullishness has evaporated. He accepts the trouble he has got himself into,” Mr Allan added.

“Mr Crozier himself told me this would not happen again. He is quite clear, and he now understands what the boundaries are.”

Sheriff John Rafferty told Crozier: “Until May of 2015, you appear to have lived a life causing no trouble to anyone. You have engaged in correspondence with various persons and organisations, as is your right.

“What you can not do is make vile and gratuitously offensive remarks in your letters which indicate religious prejudice, and these letters must have caused considerable upset to the MP performing her public duty.”

He reduced the fine from £750 to reflect the early plea, but granted a Crown motion for the non-harassment order.