Man sentenced for abusive emails to Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry

File photo dated 02/09/21 of David Knott who has been given a restraining order and an overnight cur

David Knott has been given a restraining order and an overnight curfew after being convicted of harassment sent hundreds of abusive and threatening emails to Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry. - Credit: PA

An Islington man who sent abusive and threatening emails to Labour leader Keir Starmer and MP Emily Thornberry has been given a restraining order.

David Knott, 46, was also handed an overnight curfew after being convicted of two counts of harassment against Sir Keir, who is MP for Holborn and St Pancras, and Ms Thornberry, his local MP for Islington South and shadow secretary for international trade. 

Knott had been found guilty after a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last month and returned to the same court for his sentencing today.

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in B

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton - Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

District Judge Michael Snow told him: “We live in a rather frightening time because individuals hide behind written communication and frequently abuse and threaten members of the public, public faces and politicians.

“All these people are entitled to go about their business without fear of harassment or distress.”

Knott was ordered not to contact Sir Keir or attend his constituency and not to contact Ms Thornberry or her office, except in a single communication in response to a matter where she had contacted him.

He was given an eight-week overnight curfew, will be tagged, and was ordered to pay £520 costs.

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Prosecutor Thomas Heslop told the court that about 250 emails, which were described as “quite rambling at times”, were sent to Sir Keir in a “persistent action over a prolonged period of time”.

Around 200 emails were sent to Ms Thornberry, he added. 

Knott was charged with sending an “excessive number of abusive emails” on different dates between Christmas Day, 2019 and February 24 this year.

The court heard that Knott, who represented himself at the earlier trial, often used profanities in his communication with the staff and threatened to protest outside their constituency offices multiple times.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry delivers her speech during the Labour Party Conference at

Islington South MP Emily Thornberry - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

His emails were related to an “ongoing casework matter” about housing. Knott’s defence representative for today’s hearing, Sabrina Felix, said the case had been a “sharp shock to his system” and he expressed his “sincere apologies for having caused his alleged victims to feel the way they did”.

She said that Knott is a carer, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has a learning disability. She said he is largely illiterate and many of his messages had been dictated.

Among the hundreds of emails Knott sent, he accused the staff members of “being incompetent to the point of illegality”, the court had previously heard.

A member of Sir Keir’s staff had said in a witness statement: “I found the language and tone of the emails distressing and they made me very concerned.

“The persistent threat of protest made me feel extremely anxious.”

A member of Ms Thornberry’s staff said in a witness statement: “I was very offended and distressed with the abusive language sent many times during [any given] day.”

The court heard that a cease and desist letter was sent to Knott but the emails continued.

Knott had said he was trying to complain to the MPs about the condition of his former apartment in Camden – which left him and his late quadriplegic partner “sleepless for six months”.

He said ongoing London Underground work made the noise in the apartment “unbearable” and he was trying to warn the MPs to stop letting tenants live there.

The condition of the apartment meant his partner suffered hallucinations including “demons coming out of the wall”, he told the court.

He said this worsened his partner’s condition before his death.

During his evidence, Knott said: “I had six months of torture and sleep deprivation in that place – I was left holding on to my quadriplegic partner for six months – he was never the same again.

“I sent those emails to avoid it happening to other people – I would have liked to have used Oxford Dictionary words but my language and education let me down.

“I spent four years trying to get a response from these people – my MP’s treatment of me is absolutely disgusting.

“I’m working class and I used the words as an expression of the torture I have suffered.”

Additional reporting by PA.