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Man found guilty of sending abusive emails to Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry

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A man has been found guilty of harassment after sending hundreds of abusive and threatening emails to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry.

David Knott, 46, from Islington in north London, had denied two counts of harassment against staff of Sir Keir and his local MP.

Representing himself in court, Knott was accused of sending an “excessive number of abuse emails” to the individuals on dates between 25 December 2019 and 24 February 2021.

The court heard that Knott, who was convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, threatened to protest outside staff members’ offices.

District Judge Alexander Jacobs said the emails, which were related to an “ongoing casework matter” about the condition of his former apartment in Camden, went over a “line that must never be crossed”.

“I believe you are well aware your language was abusive and should not have been used,” Judge Jacobs said.

“Any reasonable person would have known the number of emails and the language used would have caused harassment.”

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Knott told the court he was trying to complain about noise from ongoing London Underground work by his apartment which left him and his late quadriplegic partner “sleepless for six months”.

Prosecuting, Jennifer Gatland said in the hundreds of emails sent by Knott, he accused the staff members of “being incompetent to the point of illegality”.

A witness statement by a member of Sir Keir’s staff said the persistent messages made them feel “extremely anxious”.

“I found the language and tone of the emails distressing and they made me very concerned,” the statement, read by Ms Gatland, said.

“The persistent threat of protest made me feel extremely anxious.”

A member of Ms Thornberry’s staff added in a witness statement: “I was very offended and distressed with the abusive language sent many times during a day.”

Addressing the court, Knott said the situation at his former apartment meant his partner was hallucinating things such as “demons coming out of the wall”.

“I had six months of torture and sleep deprivation in that place – I was left holding on to my quadriplegic partner for six months – he was never the same again,” Knott told the court.

“I sent those emails to avoid it happening to other people – I would have liked to have used Oxford Dictionary words but my language and education let me down.

“I spent four years trying to get a response from these people – my MP’s treatment of me is absolutely disgusting.

“I’m working class and I used the words as an expression of the torture I have suffered.”

He will be sentenced on 1 October at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.