The defendant in a criminal case that has resulted from first-of-its-kind litigation by Campaign Against Antisemitism has pleaded guilty at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
Nicholas Nelson, 32, was charged with racially aggravated harassment without violence under section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, after repeatedly sending abusive antisemitic e-mails and messages to Oscar-nominated Jewish writer Lee Kern. and hateful messages to communications strategist Joanne Bell and harassing a staff member at a Jewish charity over the telephone.
An average of more three hate crimes are directed at Jews every single day in England and Wales, with Jews almost four times more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other faith group, according to the latest CAA analysis of UK Home Office statistics.
In this case, Kern contacted Campaign Against Antisemitism, which funded a case on his behalf led by Attorney Mark Lewis, an Honorary Patron of Campaign Against Antisemitism.
The abusive communications came from accounts that Nelson had worked to make anonymous. “Victims of abuse from anonymous accounts usually have nowhere to go, because only rarely will the police track down the sender, and the cost of private action is usually beyond victims’ means,” said CAA.
However, a new legal initiative devised by CAA together with counsel broke through the barrier.
“It has enabled us to identify the anonymous troll by obtaining a special kind of court order which has its origins in the pharmaceutical industry and has never before been used to unmask an anonymous abuser sending antisemitic messages,” CAA said. “The court order requires an internet service provider to disclose details of the owner of an online account so that legal proceedings can be issued.
“We used this legal device to identify Mr. Nelson and criminal proceedings were also commenced, leading to the plea at [the] hearing, held in Peterborough Cathedral,” CAA said in a statement.
Nelson, who lives in Cambridgeshire and is a vigorous supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, also previously sent abusive messages to two Jewish women Labour MPs, branding one a “vile useless c***” and the other a “traitor” who should “end yourself”.
This is not the first time Nelson has committed this crime.
At the end of 2018 Nelson pleaded guilty to the same charge and was given a twenty-week suspended sentence for twelve months and ordered to complete 160 hours unpaid work.
In 2020, he pleaded guilty to three charges of sending communications of an offensive nature to two other Labour MPs, one of whom is Jewish and the other is an active campaigner against antisemitism.
The new offenses to which Nelson pleaded guilty were committed during the period of the suspended sentence, which accordingly may impact sentencing.
Sentencing is expected on March 25, with the defendant facing a maximum sentence of six months’ in prison and a fine.
“Nicholas Nelson is a malevolent racist motivated by his love of Jeremy Corbyn and has engaged in an antisemitic campaign of harassment against me for several years,” Kern said in response to the news.
“During this time he called for another Holocaust, called me Shylock, spoke of Jews being used for gun practice, called Jewish women whores, shared perverted sexual fantasies involving Hitler and glorified the antisemitic terror organization, Hamas. He believed he was able to make these attacks on Jews with anonymity and impunity. He was mistaken.
“Justice will now be served. All those who think they can attack Jews anonymously and get away with it should pay heed. We have the motivation and commitment to come after you hard. And we succeed. I’d like to thank Campaign Against Antisemitism and Mark Lewis, and I doff my cap to all those who fight antisemitism with little reward other than doing the right thing.”
“This game-changing precedent is the most significant development in the legal fight against online hate in years,” said Stephen Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism.
“We are grateful for the cooperation of the police and prosecutors in helping us to send a message of deterrence to would-be online abusers. We will continue to devise innovative legal mechanisms to protect the Jewish community and deliver justice to victims of antisemitism, including in ways previously thought impossible.”