Asbo for 'poison pen' pest

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The Independent Online

A man who plagued a village with poison pen letters was handed an anti-social behaviour order today.

Graham Speed accused a senior doctor of fathering a love child, claimed an RAF serviceman was a sex pest, and alleged a shop manager kicked him as he lay on the floor.

The 52-year-old waged his campaign by humiliating his victims on websites and sending hundreds of emails to fellow villagers in Harmston, Lincolnshire.

Today Speed was served an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) at Lincoln Magistrates' Court banning him from the village and from contacting his 17 victims. He was not in court throughout the three-day hearing.

District Judge Richard Blake said: "I will be frank, this is quite an extraordinary case and with nearly 20 years at the bar and nine at the bench, I have seldom come across a case where I have seen so many genuine victims come before a court and express the distress that they have suffered.

"We live in a society where if you are a professional person and allegations are made of misconduct then they are investigated and I have seen a number of innocent and decent people in the last few days who have suffered restrictions on their work and mistrust and fear in their relationships for no other reason than an evil complaint by somebody.

"He (Speed) has chosen not to attend the hearing and he has put his victims through the ordeal of giving evidence and then they have had to face the allegations again in the newspapers.

"The victims are likely to have been significantly traumatised and this is likely to continue even after the stalking by Mr Speed.

"People are fearful of walking down the street, that they might bump into him and what might be his next allegation.

"This will stop or Mr Speed will go to prison and the order I have made carries up to five years."

The court heard unemployed Speed wrote to the wife of Dr Odiri Oteri, a gynaecologist at Lincoln County Hospital, claiming her husband had fathered a love child.

The General Medical Council investigated the false claims before Dr Oteri was cleared of any wrong-doing.

Speed also accused Shaun Braithwaite, manager of Tesco in Lincoln, of insulting disabled people before kicking him as he lay on the ground, having slipped on the shop's floor.

The court heard they had argued over disabled parking bays at the store and Speed sent several malicious emails detailing his allegations against Mr Braithwaite to local media organisations, including the BBC.

Mr Braithwaite said: "There were allegations that Mr Speed had found rat droppings in a cereal packet he had bought from the store, allegations that we were not complying with fire regulations and we had a visit from four or five different fire officers.

"When somebody sends emails about you questioning your integrity, that are exceptionally personal and totally unfounded, it causes great distress.

"It impacts on your home life, you discuss it with your partner and it creates this doubt about why somebody is doing this."

Ewen Stockbridge, an RAF serviceman, was secretly filmed by Speed before he posted the video on the internet under the heading: "Sex pest caught on CCTV."

He said he was questioned for three hours by his bosses as a result of the video.

Another victim of Speed was police community support officer Sarah Lingard, whom he accused of "voyeurism".

He also alleged her lesbian partner Tanya Brumpton frightened his wife with her French mastiff dog.

Villager Zena Waite said Speed's behaviour had a significant impact in Harmston, which is famed for its picture postcard setting.

She said: "An awful lot of people in the village felt that he had made spurious comments about them on the internet and it did cause quite a lot of ill-feeling."

The court heard there were revenge attacks against Speed, including CCTV cameras outside his house, named Fairytale Cottage, being damaged and acid poured on his car bonnet.

Richard Marshall, representing Speed, said his client did not attend court as he suffered from a condition that caused mini-strokes.

Instead he read a statement from Speed. It read: "When I have had disputes with my neighbours, I don't think the police have dealt with them fairly.

"I said what I said because I genuinely believed I was acting in the public interest by bringing injustice and corruption to a wider audience."

Mr Marshall said the case against his client was not just a "one-way street" and Speed was, to a "significant extent", a victim.

Lincolnshire Police said the case required its own dedicated officer for two years, cost about £200,000 and involved the taking of 77 witness statements.

The Asbo, which was due to be handed to Speed this afternoon by police, also banned him from contacting his local newspaper with malicious stories, posting slanderous comments on the internet and making false allegations against anybody in Lincolnshire.