Actress Morton wins restraining order for 'frightening' texts

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The Independent Online

A 42-year-old man has been handed a restraining order to keep him away from the actress Samantha Morton, despite being cleared ofharassing her.

Noel Watts, from Clifton in Nottingham, was convicted of harassing Morton's agent, Nicola Van Gelden, with a series of "frightening" text messages meant for the Oscar-nominated actress. He escaped the harassment charge against Morton herself because Ms Van Gelden only forwarded one of the texts.

District Judge Quentin Purdy, at City of Westminster magistrates' court, sentenced Watts to 12 weeks in prison. However Watts will go free having already served 62 days on remand.

The court heard that the "petrified" 30-year-old actress, who starred in such films as Minority Report, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Control, installed security cameras at her home after Watts wrote to her more than a decade after meeting her at a homeless shelter when she was 13.

Morton stayed at a care home in Nottingham in her youth but frequently ran away to a homeless shelter.

Watts was arrested on 26 March 2004, accused of harassing Morton, who felt "very frightened" because, according to her, "this person was very angry with me for not being in contact".

Marc Robinson, for the prosecution, described how Watts bombarded Ms Van Gelden with texts. "The subject of the texts, although not directly threatening, were very emotional and tended towards the suggestion that Mr Watts was in love with Miss Morton – something not borne out by the facts, is certainly not reciprocated and not brought on by any of her actions," he told the court last week.

He said Watts sent Morton some 40 texts, including nine in one day.

Yesterday, the judge told Watts: "This type of offence is serious. It causes people great anxiety." He paid tribute to the agent, who had withheld most of the messages from her client. "It's clear to me that Nicola Van Gelden is clearly a person of some character. She was clearly caused a great deal of anxiety by the persistence of this communication ... it seems to me that you knew that very well and continued to communicate," the judge said.

After his 2004 arrest, Watts was bailed pending further inquiries after Morton said he gave her a "tongue-lashing". Gesticulating, he said: "Tongue-lashing doesn't mean I'm going to come round and pop you through the brains with my nine [mm gun]."

Asked if it occurred to Watts the texts were wrong, he said it didn't, other than that they cost him money. "How am I to know whether that means don't bother us or bother us?" he said.

One of Watts's texts, sent on 17 January, was read to the court. It said: "I hate you so much right now and I suspect you may be guilty of worse dissing than what all I know of against me. It shall all be matched by me, trust me on that, I'm going to lay you bare."

Watts accused the police who arrested him of assault, and "squeezing off my testicles", and claimed to have been given "a bogus solicitor" before deciding to represent himself for what he called the "kangaroo foolish charge".