An internet troll who threatened to stab an ex-MP after repeating unfounded claims that he was a paedophile and child rapist has been convicted of sending him malicious communications.
Declan Canning sent John Hemming a string of vile messages after losing a family court case in which the former Liberal Democrat MP and family rights campaigner had been assisting him.
In farcical scenes, the 28-year-old – who features in rap music videos on YouTube under the stage name Fibman – first sacked his solicitor and was then ejected from court after a series of outbursts and interruptions from the dock.
Declan Canning was led away from Birmingham Magistrates’ Court in handcuffs by police
Canning (left) sent John Hemming (right) a string of vile messages after losing a family court case in which the former Lib Dem MP and family rights campaigner had been assisting him
Canning was then arrested outside the court room on unrelated matters and was led away from Birmingham Magistrates’ Court in handcuffs.
He was convicted in his absence of sending Mr Hemming, 57, three threatening emails in the form of comments to the campaigner’s online blog, with a view to causing ‘distress or anxiety’.
Canning, of Shard End, Birmingham, will be sentenced at a later date. Mr Hemming was the MP for Yardley, south Birmingham, until he was unseated at the 2015 election.
Weeks later he was linked to unsubstantiated claims by suspected fantasist Esther Baker that she had been raped as a child at Cannock Chase, the Staffordshire beauty spot. Miss Baker strenuously denies claims she is a fantasist.
In court, Canning first sacked his solicitor and was then ejected from court after a series of outbursts and interruptions from the dock
The court heard on Friday that Canning branded Mr Hemming a ‘dirty paedophile’ who had ‘raped Esther’, in his first email last September.
It added: ‘Your a conman and a paedophile. ‘Watch your back….When I see you I am gonna cut you…go an help the child snatchers you f****** p****. I’ll come to Alcester Rd (where Mr Hemming keeps an office) and stab you up.’
A second vile message which was sent from the same Gmail account the following week said: ‘You fat paedophile, admit what you did to Esther and all those other girls before it’s too late and you’re dead in a ditch somewhere….It is over for you, you’re a nonce…you raped little girls.’
The following month, Canning sent a third email to Mr Hemming’s blog, which referenced the family court case. It added: ‘Don’t try to act like your helping people now you paedophile.
Canning was convicted in his absence of sending Mr Hemming three threatening emails in the form of comments to the campaigner’s online blog, with a view to causing ‘distress or anxiety’
‘Go to hell you scumbag – you’re not protected by parliament nomore.’
Mr Hemming passed copies of the emails – which were intercepted by him and were never published on his blog – to West Midlands Police, who emailed Canning inviting him to be interviewed at a police station. He was arrested in November after failing to attend.
The court heard Canning gave a ‘no comment’ interview, something magistrates’ chairman Joyce Rothschild said she drew an ‘adverse inference’ from.
But before he was sacked midway through proceedings, Canning’s solicitor, Stephen Masih, said the defendant denied sending the messages, claiming that his email account had been hacked after his laptop had been stolen.
Prosecutor Colin Charvill said police had no report of the laptop being reported stolen.
Canning, of Shard End, Birmingham, will be sentenced at a later date following his conviction
Outside court, Mr Hemming, a married father-of-five, said Miss Baker’s allegations had led to a ‘vigilante campaign’ against him on social media and the internet from people such as Canning.
He added: ‘I’m relieved that Canning has been convicted. These kind of malicious allegations cause untold stress.
Canning arrives at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court to stand trial last Friday
‘These threats worried my family – I had to take a stand against this man. I thank the police for investigating this matter thoroughly.
‘But forces around the country need to come down hard on these people who populate social media and the internet making unfounded allegations.’
Miss Baker, now 34, waived her right to anonymity in a Sky TV interview about the alleged abuse she suffered between the age of six and 11.
She has since been given special status at the national child sex abuse inquiry, despite her claims – in which she said she was abused by VIPs while police officers stood guard – being unsubstantiated.
Mr Hemming was voluntarily interviewed under caution by Staffordshire Police, but not arrested, and made a formal allegation to police that Miss Baker had perverted the course of justice.
She categorically denies being a fantasist and making up her rape story.
Earlier this month, the Daily Mail revealed how she had been in social media contact with the man known as Nick, a suspected fantasist whose allegations triggered Scotland Yard’s shambolic VIP child sex abuse inquiry.
In a further twist, he is now set to stand trial accused of committing child sex offences while officers on Operation Midland were treating him as a victim of abuse.
West Midlands Police said Canning had been released pending ‘further investigation’, after being arrested over a criminal damage allegation outside Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Friday.