Monday, April 16, 2012
Olly Cromwell (pictured), a London-based blogger is fast becoming a celebrity after Greenwich magistrates court found him guilty on Friday for calling a Bexley councillor a 'c***' on Twitter.
Cromwell whose real name is John Graham Kerlen, was charged with "grossly offensive malicious Communications" after the councillor who sits on Bexley council in south east London complained to the police last December.
After being found guilty of improper use of the 'public electronic communications network, under section 127 offences of the Communications Act 2003' the prosecution called for Kerlen to be imprisoned for up to six months for the offence. Kerlen who uses the name 'Chaos Is Order' and '@ Sir Olly C' to tweet, is due to be sentenced on May 9. Apart from the charge for which he was convicted, Kerlen was also initially charged with harassment, but this was later dropped.
The Bexley councillor who is not named, complained after Kerlen criticised his local authority on Twitter. Annoyed, he allegedly posted a picture of a Bexley councillor's house with the caption: "Which c*** lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to # bexley council." Kerlen later added another Tweet saying: "It's silly posting a picture of a house on Twitter without an address, that will come later. Please feel free to post actual s**t."
After being charged, Bexley magistrates issued a 'restraining order' last December, that banned Kerlen from blogging about the conviction or mentioning Bexley council or its councillors, either directly or indirectly on any social media sites or blogs. Although Kerlen had not been convicted of any crime, the restraining order effectively denied him the right to free speech and the right to challenge the views and actions of his elected councillors on his local council.
Since his conviction last Friday, his case has become something of a cause celebre attracting the attention of social media sites such as the 'Huffington Post UK'. Offensive messages concerning Bexley council which have been left on Twitter, also seem to have increased, suggesting that the ruling may have backfired.
After Kerlen's conviction, Bexley Council issued a statement saying that though they were "totally supportive of freedom of expression and legitimate political debate", they believed that Kerlen's actions "went beyond the limits of what is both acceptable and reasonable in terms of freedom of expression." The council also said that councillors are entitled to know "that their families and their homes are not legitimate targets for abuse."