Cambridgeshire

Pro-Brexit war veteran jailed for Heidi Allen posts

Heidi Allen MP
Image caption The court heard that Ian Couch had sent two tweets and a Facebook post on 10 January which included aerial photographs of the MP Heidi Allen's home

A pro-Brexit war veteran who menaced a Remain-supporting MP with "terrifying" online posts has been jailed.

Ian Couch, 59, wrote "clearly threatening" tweets and messages about former Tory MP Heidi Allen, including aerial photos of her home.

A judge described Couch's campaign against her as "a profound attack on democracy" which put her "at significant risk".

He was given a 24-week sentence at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

The Falklands War veteran, of Elsworth, Cambridgeshire, was also fined £120 for missing a previous hearing.

He admitted two counts of sending offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages in January this year.

'Treacherous'

Couch sent two tweets and a Facebook post which included aerial photographs of Miss Allen's South Cambridgeshire home, the court heard.

Accompanying text said he was "close to giving out her address to the people that want it", prosecutors said.

In an email sent to the MP the next day, he told her a lot of people had asked him for photos of her home.

But he said he had refused, the court heard, because he admired her constituency work.

Sentencing, district judge Michael Snow said the former Royal Marine clearly regarded Ms Allen's views as "treacherous".

He said the "cumulative effect" of the messages would have been terrifying.

In a statement read in court, Ms Allen said she had felt scared to go out in her home village, and had given up jogging as a result of the messages.

"I struggled to sleep and was nervous of any noise, particularly at night," she said.

"I suddenly felt very exposed."

'Public life undermined'

The judge said he recognised Couch had "served the public with distinction and bravery" and put his life on the line, but doing so had caused him to suffer from mental health problems.

But he said the sentence had to be prison because frightening and intimidating MPs was "an attack on democracy".

He added: "If people are too frightened, too intimidated, to stand as MPs then the quality of public life is significantly undermined.

"It has to be recognised in the context of it being a profound attack on democracy."

Couch was also issued with a restraining order banning him from contacting the Independent MP directly or indirectly.

The order also banned Couch from posting or sending any information relating to Ms Allen's "personal or private life".

Ms Allen quit the Tory party in February and was interim leader of Change UK until she left the new party in June.

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