I TRACKED DOWN MY CORBYNITE TROLL - NOW HE'S IN PRISON
(This is a version of an article originally published in The Daily Telegraph)
I’m British. I also happen to be Jewish. Like most of Britain’s Jewish community, I experienced the surge in hard-left antisemitism that accompanied the Labour Party’s selection of Jeremy Corbyn as their leader, and I used social media to speak out against it.
In November 2018 I received several anonymous and abusive messages submitted via my website’s contact form. This was the beginning of four years of racial harassment from a highly motivated Corbyn fanatic. The offender is now known to be Nicholas Nelson, an unemployed 34-year-old from Cambridgeshire who, last week, was sent to prison – though only after the Court of Appeal quashed the suspended sentence he had been given in March, following pressure from myself and the Campaign Against Antisemitism,
For the best part of four years, I had no idea who Nelson was. His messages were hateful and racist; they carried implied threats of violence. They included wishing that I and my family would experience another Holocaust; talk of Jews being used for target practice; being told to pack my bags and get ready to leave the country if Corbyn came to power; glorification of terrorists whose stated mission is to exterminate every Jew in the world; being told that my family and I are Nazis and equivalent to those who perpetrated the Holocaust; being subjected to a peculiar obsession with Jews and their supposed skin colour; and being subjected to disgusting, pornographic sexual fantasies involving Hitler and Nazis.
Notably, Nelson's abuse followed the same dubious messages being spread by Corbyn and his supporters. Politicians, comedians and alt-Left YouTubers championed the notion that Corbyn was a good man, despite the documented proof of his associations with terrorists and antisemites, and despite the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission ruling that Labour, under Corbyn’s leadership, had discriminated, harassed and acted unlawfully against Jews. The notion that Corbyn offered our society some kind of utopia that would be achieved were it not for so-called “smears” against him enabled Nelson to justify his abuse against those he perceived as standing in the way: Jews. It was galling to see so many self-righteous media luvvies downplaying such antisemitism, assured that they were on the “right side of history”, while one of their fellow travellers was telling me that “Hitler did have a point”.
Nelson’s anonymous messages ran into the hundreds. It was impossible to stop the relentless hate getting under my skin. Days when Nelson didn’t message weren’t days of relief, they were days of dread, waiting for the next rant telling me Corbyn was fantastic and that Jews have “never once actually experienced racism, whitey”.
Like all British Jews, my family fought against Hitler. Yet on the day of my great-uncle’s funeral and on my grandfather’s 90th birthday, I received messages saying my family were Nazis. At children’s parties, I’d check the beep on my phone to see that Nelson had sent me one of his many pornographic fantasies involving oral sex with Nazis. Can you imagine living like that? With no apparent way to stop it?
It wasn’t just mentally exhausting – it affected my life on a practical level. The danger that someone this erratic could translate their behaviour into real-world violence was very real to me. Locks were placed on the windows and doors of my house. As a film and television writer, I needed to keep the contact page on my website available, as this is how clients approach me. But I now had to spend time vetting people and tell my friends what I was doing if I met someone I didn’t know. The situation became intolerable.
The turning point came eight months after the trolling began, when I installed software on my website that identified the IP address from which the abuse was coming. While an IP address identifies a device on the internet, it doesn’t tell you who owns that device or where the device is located. That information is known only by internet service providers such as Sky, BT, Virgin or TalkTalk, and they cannot simply give out that information, on account of data protection rules.
So I contacted the anti-racism charity Campaign Against Antisemitism. With the libel lawyer Mark Lewis, we devised a legal strategy to compel Virgin Media to reveal who owned the IP address behind the abuse. The key to this was using a unique law relating to the pharmaceutical industry, known as a “Norwich Pharmacal order”, which can compel an innocent third-party to disclose details concerning others. In light of the criminal nature of what I was experiencing, Virgin Media were happy to supply the details of my abuser.
Nelson didn’t know that he would very soon receive a knock on his door from the police.
I supplied the police with years of evidence that I had taken special care to archive. The evidence was so compelling that the case was escalated from the Magistrate Courts to the Crown Court, and a court date was set.
Yet in spite of this, so radicalised was Nelson by the cult of Corbynism, the abuse continued. He now threw caution to the wind, and abused me openly, sending messages under his own name. In an attempt at witness intimidation, he even sent a photograph of himself sneering, and the words “see you in court”. He continued to defend Corbyn, saying that claims of antisemitism in the Corbyn movement were smears – even as he called me “Shylock” in reference to the antisemitic caricature depicted in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
On January 24 2022, at Peterborough Crown Court, Nelson was found guilty of racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress and of sending a letter/electronic communication/article with intent to cause distress or anxiety. Sentencing took place two months later at Southwark Crown Court. The result was disappointing. Nelson was given 18 months but this was suspended for 2 years, meaning he was spared jail. What is more, this occurred in spite of the fact Nelson had been found guilty of the same crime not once but twice before, and despite the latest offence occurring within the time frame of an earlier suspended sentence.
The first was in 2018, when Nelson was handed a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, after admitting harassing two Jewish then-Labour MPs, Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth. Then, in 2020, he was handed a 30-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, after repeatedly targeting Dame Margaret Hodge and Dame Louise Ellman (both Jewish), and Lord John Mann, whom he called “c----s” and told to “leave the party and die”.
With Nelson avoiding jail for the third time, not only did I feel a lack of justice for the four years of my life he had poisoned, I was left wondering: what exactly does it take for antisemitism to be taken seriously? This is why, together with Campaign Against Antisemitism, I appealed the outcome. After an intervention from the Attorney General, the Court of Appeal re-examined the sentence on July 15, and the result was emphatic. The original judge’s decision was stridently overturned; Nelson had to surrender himself and was immediately sent to prison for 18 months.
The Court of Appeal stated that the harassment I experienced was “some of the worst kind imaginable, about as low as it can get, the most despicable of all in a crowded field”. It added: “For the avoidance of doubt, the fear of violence being perpetrated was entirely rational and justifiable.”
And so the saga was brought to an end. Nelson, a racist internet troll, was plucked out of the shadows, and is now in a prison cell. The hands that once spread hate online are now chained. The message to all antisemites is clear: you don’t get to abuse Jews for free. You will be found and you will be the one that suffers. This is a message that can be applied to all internet trolls. The game is over. The world is sick of you. People are motivated to find you and there are now ways to do so.
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That’s absolutely terrible for the author and the offender clearly deserves a very harsh sentence indeed. It’s obscene that his sentence was initially suspended. I hope he has time to reflect in jail and sees the error of his ways. Fact remains though, 95% of antisemitism is from the right. This should not be forgotten. Three people have gone to jail for harassing Luciana Berger. All were right wing. It’s extremely odd that people are so fixated with antisemitism in an area of society where you’re least likely to find it. If antisemitism is the main problem then seek it out where you’re most likely to find it - on the right. But no, counterintuitively, they look in the opposite direction. Evidently, there’s clearly something else going on. Something that has a lot more to do with socialism than antisemitism. This backwards, 1+1=3, post-truth world is a frustratingly toxic landscape.