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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Tristan Kirk

Labour's Barry Gardiner slams 'lamentably poor' security for MPs amid threats to British politicians

Labour MP Barry Gardiner hit out at “lamentably poor” security measures for British politicians, as a disgruntled dentist was sentenced for threatening to behead him.

Amit Kerai, 34, bombarded a father and daughter with abuse, violent threats, and harassment after he was suspended by the General Dental Council in 2018.

At the culmination of his campaign, Kerai turned his obsessive attention to Mr Gardiner, the MP for Brent North, and sent him message on Twitter saying he suggesting he would be “stabbed, shot, beheaded” in August 2022.

In his victim impact statement, Mr Gardiner criticised the way Parliamentarians are protected.

“I am all too aware that Members of Parliament are increasingly beingthreatened and two of my colleagues have been murdered in the course of theirwork.

“I consider the level of security offered to MPs to be lamentably poor.

“I refuse to allow these threats to reduce my accessibility to my constituents and I still hold surgeries and take public transport and attend other public meetings, but I feel that the job of being a member of parliament now places much greater strain on my staff and my family than when I began in Parliament 25 years ago.”

The veteran MP drew praise in court for his “steadfast” reaction to the death threat.

But his words came amid a row in the Commons over a motion on a ceasefire in Gaza, and as Speaker of the House Sir Lindsey Hoyle spoke out about the dangers MPs face.

“I will defend every member in this House,” he said, explaining a controversial decision he had made in a debate.

“Both sides, I never ever want to go through a situation where I pick up a phone to find a friend, whatever side, has been murdered by terrorists.

“I also don't want an attack on this House.”

Sir Lindsay said "the details of the things that have been brought to me are absolutely frightening".

In 2016, on the eve of the Brexit vote, Labour MP for Batley and Spen Jo Cox was murdered in the street by far-right extremist Thomas Mair who was heard saying “keep Britain independent” as he shot and stabbed the MP.

In 2021, a second MP Sir David Amess, was murdered during a constituency surgery in Southend on Sea by Ali Harbi Ali, apparently in revenge for a House of Commons vote on military action in Syria.

Earlier this month extremist Kieran Turner from Earby, Lancashire, was jailed for glorifying the death of Ms Cox, including the comment “Britain needs 650 Thomas Mairs”.

MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer announced he will step down at the next General Election, citing threats that he has faced as one of the reasons for his decision.

Kerai was sentenced on Thursday by Judge Mark Lucraft KC, the Recorder of London, to indefinite detention in a secure hospital, to receive treatment for “paranoid and persecutory delusions”.

The court heard he was a user of cannabis and cocaine, and is taking anti-psychotic medication to treat a “persistent delusional disorder”.

The judge imposed an indefinite restraining order on Kerai, banning him from contacting the victims of his harassment campaign or posting about them on social media.

He is also barred from entering Bishops Waltham and Farnham in Hampshire, and he can only contact Mr Gardiner in the future for legitimate reasons as a constituent and through a third party.

The court heard Kerai had been a practicing dentist until a misconduct investigation by the General Dental Council, resulting in an interim suspension in 2018 and a permanent ban in 2021.

Keith Percival, a dentist and part of the Local Dental Committee in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and his daughter Emily Vidovic became the target of Kerai’s abuse, as they were branded “racists” and “fascists”.

The court heard Kerai sent graphic unsolicited images of the war in Ukraine, as well as pornographic pictures together with lurid false allegations about the victims.

“The harassment complained of here took many forms including making demands for money, defamation, intimidation, blackmail and coercion of Keith Percival and his daughter, who was working for the Local Dental Committee as a website manager and administrator,” said the judge. 

“The nature of the harassment spread as time went on and the local MP, Barry Gardner was also the subject of the attacks made by you.       

“The course of your campaign of harassment including you making accusations on social media about Keith Percival that were deeply distressing.  

“In February 2022, following a threatening phone call from you, Keith Percival contacted the police. The police then made contact with you to warn you about your contact.

“Despite that warning, you were not deterred and you continued with your campaign.  

“Mr Percival then started a civil action against you and as part of that, you were served with a cease and desist letter. You then began to use various accounts on what was then known as Twitter to continue your campaign.

“Emily Vidovic estimates you sent 10,400 Tweets. As with your previous conduct, the Tweets were derogatory and harassing and included graphic images of the war in Ukraine, sexual violence and death.”

In his victim impact statement, Mr Percival said Kerai’s campaign “has actively and remorselessly destroyed my day-to-day health and wellbeing”.

Kerai, from Kingsbury in northwest London, admitted making a threat to kill, two charges of putting other people in fear of violence by harassment, and sending an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety.

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