Hewson: We have a problem – online harassment and how we just don’t deal with it.

EDIT DECEMBER 21st 2019. 

On Wednesday 18th December 2019 Ms Hewson was suspended from practice for 2 years with immediate effect after admitting two charges of professional misconduct. See this article from Legal Cheek for more details. 

I am not ‘glad’ this happened and I am certainly not ‘glad’ it took so long for the profession to do something about it. But I hope its over now.  If I continue to face harassment and abuse from this or any other individual that I can identify, I will take action in whatever arena seems the most suitable. 

I support freedom of speech. It is however subject to immediate and obvious limitations and the civil and criminal harassment laws are just one. 

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore. It is grimly apt that I publish this during National Stalking Awareness Week. 

Too long; didn’t read – SUMMARY

No doubt some will dismiss what follows as trivial:  ‘handbags at dawn’ type spats or an amusing potty mouthed barrister. Judge for yourself. I set out below the ‘timeline’ I prepared for the police covering what happened between August 2016 – March 2017. Its worth noting that from 4th September 2016 to early March 2017 I had no contact with Ms Hewson on or off line. so whatever was fuelling her, it wasn’t direct provocation from me.

I hope that the majority, after reading what I set out here, will agree with me – something very wrong happened here. It should have been dealt with, it should have been stopped. It was not.

This has potentially very serious ramifications. Ms Hewson’s continued pubic vilification and intimidation of anyone who displeases her, must have the impact to both seriously diminish public trust in the Bar and cause real pain and suffering to those individuals she targets. As little or no help is forthcoming from any outside agency, If her victims respond in kind out of fear or frustration, they will themselves be labelled  ‘abusers’. That is exactly what happened to me; the police have been clear I have lost my status as ‘good victim’ by responding on occasion.

The failure or inability of any external agency – be it Chambers, the BSB, the police or Twitter itself – to take any kind of effective action to control this behaviour, shines an uncomfortable light on our collective inability to respond to abusive behaviour in the internet age. Social media is hijacked by those who wish to display and promote their own personality disorders. We witness yet another example of the slow, lingering death of public discussion.

But as with every harsh experience, I have learned some valuable lessons. For example, I have learned that the law will provide me with protection only if I can afford to buy it. That my professional obligation to refer wrong doing to my regulator means nothing, as they will not act and will not explain their failure to act.

EDIT The BSB finally replied to me at 17.46 today. They do not accept they failed to act with expedition in investigating my complaint. They had to take time to consider whether or not repeatedly calling me a ‘cunt’ on line was Ms Hewson exercising her right to a private life. I will treat this justification with the silent contempt it deserves. 

As I cannot afford civil litigation – this is my response. This will be my final word on the matter. I have gazed into the Abyss for far too long already. There are some very sad and damaged people online and they do enormous harm to others – and themselves.

I hope that this post may help some others feel less alone. I hope it may also prompt some much needed thought and discussion about exactly how we manage our interactions on line. This online world is far too rich in opportunity for learning and discussion to simply hand over to the rule of the mad, bad or sad.

EDIT 14th March 2018 I am pleased to report that Hewson’s attempt to have the Metropolitan police deemed ‘irrational’ and unlawful in their issue of a ‘PIN’ or Police Harassment Letter, was dismissed – the court confirming that it is important to remember that Article 10 is a qualified right. See the judgment here. 

Truth, Lies and Intimidation

A brief background

In May 2016 I made the rookie mistake of engaging with Barbara Hewson on line, criticising her view that family lawyers were all collusive and inefficient.  I wrote a blog post about it .

Hoaxtead Research also wrote a very clear summary of our ‘dispute’ and how my mild banter and criticisms were met with a barrage of offensive and untrue on line publications from Ms Hewson, which she shared far and wide, purposefully designed to frighten and intimidate me.

So far, so internet. But it will stop soon I thought. This person is a professional. Surely she can’t keep doing this? But she did. After 7 months and after I had spent nearly £2K on solicitors letters, made numerous complaints to her Chambers, 12 complaints to Twitter, 3 complaints to the Bar Standards Board, and finally to the police, who issued a harassment warning notice against her in March 2017 – she is STILL going strong, like a demonic Duracell bunny.

See the timeline below for further detail, but a non exhaustive list of Hewson’s abusive behaviour directed at me since August 2016 to date includes:

  • repeatedly publishing my photograph with insults attached  – ‘fuck off madam’
  • linking insults directly to and about my Chambers
  • foul, abusive language – for example, calling me a ‘nasty C**t’
  • encouraging one of her criminal associates to email me and a senior member of my Chambers directly and threaten to report me to the police
  • publicly discussing my sexuality on line with a man who I know to be a sexual abuser of women and girls (this man then takes to Facebook and repeats that I am an evil lesbian and ‘pure shit’)
  • continually making references to my daughter when she knows full well that her tweets are ‘liked’ and ‘retweeted’ by at least one convicted and unrepentant paedophile.
  • inciting her followers to target me – ‘will no one rid me of this McCarthyite barrister?’
  • targeting anyone else she perceives as supporting me and publishing abuse directed at them via Twitter or sending threatening emails to them or their employers.

I have been subject to serious abuse, but others have fared even worse. They have wished to retain their on line anonymity but been ‘outed’ by Ms Hewson who has no problem at all with posting people’s real names and email addresses, despite her very keen appreciation that her own privacy be respected. One particularly repulsive example of this kind of behaviour was her repeated publication of photographs of the children of at least two of her adversaries, with insulting comments attached.

I note that some of those people on the receiving end of this, have themselves behaved in a reprehensible way and subjected Ms Hewson to repeated on line harassment and trolling. I do not condone this behaviour from anyone. I do not act ‘in support’ of them or at their behest – as Ms Hewson consistently alleges. I knew nothing of them at all until June 2016 when I began to take a keener interest in the nature and extent of Ms Hewson’s on line abusive behaviour.

Ms Hewson has a right not to be abused on line. Anyone who does so is wrong and should face consequences. However, to behave as she did was without any kind of rational justification, no matter what her claimed provocation. Many of the people she targets on line are vulnerable and have mental health difficulties. She surely has the financial and intellectual resources to seek proper, and less public, redress against those she considers to have defamed or harassed her.

Her justifications for her behaviour are varied and weak; Ms Hewson has repeatedly claimed the defence of ‘freedom of speech’ when insulting and defaming me, or that she is indulging in ‘parody’ or ‘satire’. I should not have had to spend nearly £2K of my own money to point out that I do not accept she can legitimately claim ‘satire’ for discussing my sexuality in public with a man known to have sexually and physically abused women and girls. Further, it is simply absurd to claim – as she does – that  ‘freedom of speech’ an absolute and unrestricted right. It never has been, and in any kind of healthy society never could be.

She has claimed that when she insults me it is as ‘writer’ not as a barrister – but recent BSB guidelines on use of social media for barristers has hopefully kicked that one into touch. We are bound by Core Duty 5 AT ALL TIMES – not to behave in a way which would cause public trust in the profession to be diminished.

On January 30th 2017 she extended her harassment of me to the national press making a variety of dishonest assertions to the Times, including that she had reported me to both the police and the BSB. This was a lie. But no doubt one believed by those reading the article, to the further detriment of my professional reputation and integrity. The Times published a further article on April 12th detailing allegations that she had sent death threats to a student. Ms Hewson is apparently going to sue the Times for defamation but the time of publication (April 25th) I have heard nothing further about that. I have contacted the Times and offered my support in defending any such action. Because everything I say is true.

A big part of why this has been so difficult to bear is the absolute breathtaking hypocrisy demonstrated by Ms Hewson. Whilst holding herself out as a warrior for Freedom of Speech and writing for the online journal Spiked whose guiding principle is ‘freedom of speech – no ifs or buts’ , Ms Hewson has been assiduous in her efforts to silence those who disagree with her by threats, abuse and other forms of intimidation.


A failure by Regulators to Regulate.

Unpleasant and abusive people on line are common. The real issue here, for me at least, is what this sorry saga has revealed about the ability or willingness of the BSB to do its job.

I have made three complaints; on 14th September 2016, 7th February 2017 and 6th March 2017. The BSB have requested I get further evidence from ‘persons of standing’ to back up my complaints. In light of how Ms Hewson behaves, it is unsurprising that none of the 9 people I asked felt able to help me. Some expressed serious concerns about the impact on either their mental health or their employment, should they make complaint against Ms Hewson and risk incurring her anger. I am sad that I do not apparently count as a ‘person of standing’.

Ms Hewson’s decision to take to the national press in her campaign of intimidation, led to the second of my complaints to the BSB in February 2017. However, my first was apparently not even put to Ms Hewson until the 30th January 2017, nearly 5 months after I made it. 

At the time of writing I have not the foggiest idea what is happening to any of my complaints as the BSB have not provided any information, despite repeated requests.

From information Ms Hewson herself put in the public domain in 2016, it is clear that the BSB are well aware of her activities and have been for some time. At least four people have complained since 2014 but nothing apparently has happened. There is – in my view at least – a very real risk that this failure to take any action against Ms Hewson has empowered her to believe that she is untouchable.

I know of no other profession that would tolerate this kind of disgraceful public behaviour from one of its regulated members. How would you feel if your child’s teacher conducted themselves on line in this way? Or your GP? I suspect you would be horrified. Why then are barristers apparently exempt from censure for such appalling and public behaviour?

I made a formal complaint to the BSB on March 23rd about their twin failures; to act with any reasonable expedition to deal with my complaint or to respond to my emailed queries. I was told that I would receive a response by April 25th. None has been received, so I publish this.

Where do I go from here?

I am told that to apply for an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act will cost me at least £10K. With regard to defamation,  the Monroe v Hopkins libel action was a sobering reminder of the costs those kind of proceedings are likely to incur.

I do not doubt that if I initiated civil action, I would win given the sheer weight and volume of the evidence I have against her – I have now over 500 archived links to her abusive publications on line, along with many emails sent to me and others. But when would I see my costs and/or damages? The little spare cash I did have as a ‘professional loser’ at the publicly funded family bar has now gone on just two solicitor’s letters that managed to stem for too short a time the flood of vitriolic and public attacks on me.

Would I have engaged with Ms Hewson back in May 2016 had I known the full extent of her unboundaried behaviour and that I would receive almost nothing by way of support or action from any other outside agency? Possibly not. But on reflection, I am glad I did. If this whole sorry tale can push individual Chambers and the BSB to greater recognition of the impact of social media and the need to engage with those who misuse it, then at least something positive can come out of this.

Although I count myself as a very resilient person, there have been times throughout this whole process where I have felt very alone and frightened. To be on the receiving end of such targeted harassment from a senior member of my own profession was, initially at least, terrifying. Over the months I have grown a thicker skin but what has really helped was being able to laugh at some of the more ridiculous and childish behaviours publicly demonstrated by Hewson. I remain grateful to those anonymous people on line who helped me gather evidence of her abusive behaviour.

However, while laughter is the best medicine, it does not combat the evil I have identified here, just makes it easier to live with. What has happened to me is happening to many others – some of whom are extremely vulnerable adults. I have witnessed over 7 months now, a disgraceful, public and persistent abuse of power and status; used to intimidate, distress and alarm. And a failure of our regulatory body to do anything about it.

You may not agree with me about how serious you think this is.

And you are entitled to disagree with me.

Unlike Ms Hewson, I will not stalk you, vilify you, abuse you or try to get you sacked if you do.

Time line of harassment by Ms Hewson from August 2016 to 31st March 2017

Mid August to early Oct Ms Hewson subjects me to almost daily harassment via Twitter, including publications of my photograph, details of my Chambers and making various comments that I am a ‘malicious crackpot’, ‘unhinged’ and is sympathetic to those who hold anti-Semitic views.

04/09/16 I cease direct communication with Ms Hewson via social media. All subsequent communications I make are to her solicitors

07/09/16 I complain directly to Ms Hewson’s Chambers. (they reply on 03.10.16 to say they cannot progress my complaint and I need to complain to the BSB)

14/09/16 I make direct complaint to the Bar Standards Board

20/09/16 The BSB confirm they have received my complaint on this date.

23/09/16 Ms Hewson has direct conversation via Twitter with a Mr E, wondering whether I am obsessed with her as a ‘lesbian thing’. Mr E then makes similar and further abusive comments both on Twitter and on a Facebook group. I am very alarmed as I know the identity of Mr E. He has been found by judgments in the family court to have sexually and physically abused his step daughter.

29/09/16 I instruct solicitors to send a letter before action – requesting that Ms Hewson refrain from any further mention of me on social media or I will apply for an injunction.

04/10/16 Unfortunately the letter does not have the desired effect. Ms Hewson late on 4th October, published a significant number of abusive tweets, referring directly to my proposed application and using derogatory terms. Ms Hewson has quoted tweets published by me in August, intending to imply that I am still engaged in conversations with her. This is dishonest.

05/10/16 My solicitors send a second letter before action, setting out very clearly why I am so concerned about her behaviour on 23rd September.

12/10/16 My solicitors send screen shots and archived links to Tweets to Ms Hewson’s solicitors in support of my letter before action, stating that if she does not cease her harassment of me, I will issue proceedings for an injunction. Ms Hewson then refrains from mentioning me directly. I have now spent nearly £2,000 on solicitors’ fees and cannot afford any further expenditure.

31/10/16 I make formal complaint to Wiltshire police about a very abusive email sent directly to my Chambers and two abusive comments left on my blog. I explain that I am concerned that Ms Hewson is directly or indirectly encouraging others to harass me, in light of her own long standing harassment of me.

11/11/16 I meet PC Sarah Greenman of the Wiltshire police at Bradford-on-Avon police station and we agree there is nothing that can be done as they cannot identify the individual who sent the email in October. However, PC Greenman says that if I had reported Ms Hewson’s behaviour of September at the time they would have considered taking a statement from me and arresting her

18/11/16 Around this date I understand the BSB refer my complaint to its Investigations and Hearings Team to look at possible breach by Ms Hewson of Core Duties 3 and 5 of the Code of Conduct.

24/11/16 Ms Hewson’s solicitors contact me to request that I withdraw my complaint to the BSB.

26/11/16 Ms Hewson recommences direct harassment of me on social media, apparently angered that I have suggested to Andy Woodward that he could contact the BSB if he was being harassed on line by a practicing barrister

03/12/16 Mr E attempts direct conversation with Ms Hewson via Twitter.

04/12/16 I email the BSB asking whether recent harassment from Ms Hewson can be added to my first complaint or if I need to make a fresh complaint. I receive no response to this request.

21/12/16 Some bizarre and inflammatory tweets from Ms Hewson saying that her detractors were ‘in the firing line’ and that ‘I hold the gun’. This tweet was reported to Twitter by many users, including myself, as posing a credible threat of violence. Ms Hewson then goes quiet again.
I email the BSB to ask again if I need to make a separate complaint about this or it can be included as evidence for my first complaint. Ms Lall says she will need to speak to her Line Manager and will respond in the New Year.

14/01/17 Ms Hewson’s direct harassment of myself recommences, including making direct reference to my Chambers. I have no idea why; I have not done or said anything to provoke her.

15/01/17 I email Ms Hewson’s solicitors requesting confirmation that I can serve any application for an injunction at their offices. I say I am very concerned that Ms Hewson is in contact with two men who have just been arrested for stalking Esther Baker and an unnamed journalist. These men are Simon Just and Darren Laverty.
I email Ms Lall in the following terms:
1. Do you require me to raise a separate complaint about this and other matters raised with you since November 2016, or can these issues simply be applied to my initial complaint of September 2016 as further evidence of a pattern of on going behaviour?
2. Could you confirm the likely timescales for investigation into my complaint of September 2016?
3. If I do apply for an injunction in civil proceedings against Ms Hewson pursuant to the PHA, or refer this matter onto the police, is the BSB likely to suspend its current investigations and/or delay making any fresh investigations until the outcome of the civil/criminal proceedings are known? I appreciate and understand that the function of the BSB is not to protect my personal safety and your investigations will necessarily take time. It may be that I have to take other action to protect myself and my reputation.
However, I am very anxious not to delay your investigations by any action I take as an individual. My concerns about Ms Hewson’s general fitness to practice are ever increasing and this clearly has implications for very many people other than myself, and to the reputation of the Bar as a whole.

16/01/17 I am emailed directly by Simon Just, who also emails a senior member of my Chambers. It is clear that he has been encouraged by Ms Hewson to do this and has read my email to her solicitors. Later this evening Ms Hewson emails directly a senior member of my Chambers, mistakenly believing he is my Head of Chambers. He forwards her email to me then deletes it and replies to Ms Hewson that he will not communicate any further with her about this.

17/01/17 Ms Hewson emails me directly saying that I am not to correspond with her or her solicitors. That evening I am informed that one of the people ‘liking’ and ‘retweeting’ her abusive tweets about me is Nigel Oldfield, a convicted paedophile. I become very alarmed.

18/01/17 Early this morning I telephone and email PC Sarah Greenman to say I wish to make a formal complaint as the harassment has started again and is escalating. I receive no reply so at lunchtime I ring the Wiltshire control desk who tell me PC Greenman is on annual leave but they will pass a message on.
Ms Lall telephones me that evening and asks that I provide further complaints from ‘persons of standing’ who are concerned about Ms Hewson’s behaviour.

19/01/17 I have a number of replies from people I contact, asking them to support my complaint about Ms Hewson, to say they are too afraid of reprisals. One fears for her job, Ms Hewson having contacted her employer and made a false allegation of misconduct.

20/01/17 Ms Hewson publishes on line part of my email to her solicitors. PC Greenman contacts me and asks me to make a report to the Metropolitan police as this is the area where Ms Hewson resides.

21/01/17 Early that morning I make a report to the Metropolitan police who refer me back to Wiltshire. Ms Hewson continues to make abusive and threatening publications on Twitter throughout the evening and late night, publishing part of my email to her solicitors and calling me a ‘malicious bitch’. PC Greenman replies to my email and we try to arrange a date to meet so she can take a statement.

22/01/17 Ms Hewson continues harassing me via Twitter – her ‘pinned tweet’ invites journalists to contact her regarding me. I email PC Greenman.
I email Ms Lall and request information by Monday 30th January about when the BSB will be in a position to respond to my complaint which they received on 20th September 2016.

23/01/17 In the morning I am contacted via email by Jonathan Ames a journalist for the Times who says Ms Hewson has sent him my email to her solicitors of 15th January 2017 and he asks for comment. I say it would be inappropriate as the BSB are investigating. At about 5pm her Twitter accounts are suspended after complaints from other users. She immediately sets up a third account which quickly degenerates into abusive harassment of various others.
I email PC Greenman

25/01/17 Ms Hewson’s third Twitter account is suspended. I email PC Greenman.

26/01/17 At 1.10 am Ms Hewson emails me directly. I forward this to her solicitors and ask them to remind her not to contact me, and I will treat such communication as further evidence of her harassment of me.

30/01/17 An article appears on page 3 of the Times, quoting my email. I have never given permission for my correspondence to be used in this way. I consider that Ms Hewson has now extended her harassment of me to the national press. I email PC Greenman again, requesting a date to meet to provide a statement. I email the BSB to request urgent information about the state of their investigation.

31/01/17 The BSB email me to say that they have sent a letter to Ms Hewson outlining my complaint against her conduct from May – Jan 17th 2017. She will have 3 weeks to reply.

01/02/17 Ms Hewson’s second Twitter account is reinstated but she ‘protects’ her account so only confirmed followers can see what she writes.

03/02/17 From about 9pm Ms Hewson unlocks her account and publishes a continual stream of derogatory tweets, including one that says, in reference to me ‘Will no one rid me of this McCarthyite barrister? What is wrong with her?’ This is – in my view – direct incitement to her followers. She is tweeting about my daughter. I report her to Twitter for the fourth time (I have since made eight more complaints).

04/02/17 On line harassment continues

05/02/17 On line harassment continues

06/02/17 I attend Bradford on Avon police station and PC Greenman takes a statement.
I make second complaint to the BSB that Ms Hewson is in breach of r69 of our Code of Conduct; she must not victimise someone who has made a complaint about her in good faith.

07/02/17 On line harassment continues

08/02/17 On line harassment continues. I forward screenshots to PC Greenman who replies to suggest I consider meeting with the Restorative Justice Team. I express scepticism but say I am willing to discuss the process with them.
That evening the on line harassment from Ms Hewson is probably the worst it has ever been to date. She compares me to Karen Matthews and says I am a liar and should be struck off. She denigrates my personal appearance. She includes my Chambers directly in her publications. She taunts the BSB directly.

09/02/17 I email PC Greenman and say I would be grateful if my statement could be finalised as soon as possible and forwarded to the Metropolitan police.
My Head of Chambers confirms via email that this matter will be raised at the Chambers Management Board meeting to consider what action Chambers can take against Ms Hewson.
A barrister colleague emails the BSB to express her concern about what she is reading.
Ms Hewson refrains from targeted harassment of me on this date.

10/11/02/17 Late on 10th February and in early hours of 11th February, Ms Hewson publishes large amount of abusive and derogatory material. This is even worse than her publications on 8th February. She is now including a colleague in Chambers, calls us ‘cunts’ and claims we are jealous of her. She tags my Chambers directly in her tweets. She says she is going to publish my complaint to the BSB on line as it is ‘drivel’.
This material remains on line until early evening of 11th Feb and Ms Hewson then deactivates her Twitter account.

12/02/17 At some point Ms Hewson restores her Twitter account, and announces via Social Media that she is retiring from the Bar. She then locks, unlocks and locks again her Twitter account over the next few days.
I attend Trowbridge police station at 1pm to sign my statement and dockets on evidence such as screen shots and blog posts.

13/02/17 PC Johnson of the Metropolitan police contacts me via my mobile to ask for information; he has not yet received any paperwork regarding my complaint.

14/02/17 The Management Board of my Chambers meet to discuss the activities of Ms Hewson.

15/16/02/17 Ms Hewson publishes variety of late night/early morning abusive tweets; including telling me I will ‘rue the day’, I am ‘dodgy’ and ‘evil’. And directly tagging in PC Greenman of the Wiltshire police.
I email Wiltshire police, the Met and the BSB. Ms Hewson has deleted these tweets by about 8am but I have screenshots and archived links.

17/18/.02.17 This evening my HoC confirms that Chambers will write to the BSB to express their dismay that the investigation into Ms Hewson is taking so long, in light of the abusive nature of her conduct and its impact (this letter is sent on 22/02/17).
Late this evening and early morning of 18th February 2017 Ms Hewson emails me directly; first by copying me into email sent to PC Greenman, demanding that I withdraw my complaint to the police; second she emails me directly asking to know if I am registered with the ICO. I forward both emails on to the police, the BSB and her Chambers, as Ms Hewson is using her Chambers address to send emails which I consider to be part of her continued campaign of harassment against me.
I send Ms Hewson’s Chambers a copy of this timeline. I consider it is important that they are aware of the full nature and extent of her activities as the implications for the reputation of their Chambers are serious. I ask if they can suspend or restrict Ms Hewson’s access to their Chambers’ email system.
Later that morning I am told that Ms Hewson has sent ‘cease and desist’ letters to 2 other barristers and a journalist, using her Chambers address in 2 of the 3 emails.
In one email she falsely asserts that I have chosen to publicise our dispute in the national press. I have done no such thing. This is a deliberately dishonest statement by Ms Hewson as the emails between myself and Jonathan Ames on 23rd January 2017 prove.
I obtain permission from one of the barristers and the journalist to forward copies of the emails they received to the police and the BSB. The emails have caused distress to all the recipients.

19/02/17 Linda Turnbull of the Standards Committee of 1 Grays Inn Square emails me to say that they will await the outcome of the police and BSB investigations of Ms Hewson.
That evening there is further relatively mild denigration of me by Ms Hewson on social media.

20/02/17 No on line harassment from Ms Hewson on this day.

21/02/17 From about 11pm further abusive publications; that I am associating with anti Semites, am hysterical and waste police time. My Chambers are directly included in some tweets.

22/02/17 I email the BSB with regard to my second complaint that Ms Hewson is victimising me for making a complaint and ask for clarification as to how to proceed. Do they wish me to make a fresh complaint for each new incident?

23/02/17 I am contacted by DC Adam Downs who leaves a message to say that my case has now been transferred to him at Islington. I email my updated timeline.
More on line abuse from Ms Hewson.

24/02/17 I speak to DC Downs around 9am and he informs me that he contacted Ms Hewson yesterday with a view to issuing her with a harassment warning notice and this probably prompted her abuse of me last night.
I confirm that I muted her account in September and blocked it in January and that I have frequently report her account to Twitter Support, to no avail.

25/02/17 Some mild denigration of me on Twitter in late evening/early morning of 25/26 February.

26/02/17 No on line harassment from Ms Hewson on this day.

27/28/02/17 Some mild denigration of me and direct tagging of Chambers but Ms Hewson does not mention my full name. However, she is clearly monitoring my social media output, as she engages in direct conversation with someone with whom I am having online disagreement and tells him I am a ‘monstrous’ example of feminism and a bully.
Later that day the BSB email to inform me that Ms Hewson has requested an extension of time to reply to my (I assume) first complaint, until 9th March. I reply to ask for a response to my email of 22/02/17 regarding the need to make a fresh complaint. I say that if I do not receive a response from the BSB I will make my third complaint on 6th March, relating to the dates from 06/02/17 – 06/03/17

01/03/17 Email from DC Downs to confirm that harassment warning notice will be served upon Ms Hewson by post, expected to arrive on Friday 3rd March. If she breaches it she will be arrestable.
No on line harassment from Ms Hewson on this day.

02/03/17 No on line harassment from Ms Hewson on this day
I email the Standards Committee of 1 GIS to inform them that Ms Hewson is to be issued with a harassment warning notice.

03/03/17 At 8.50pm I receive email notification from EventBrite that Ms Hewson has purchased a ticket to a conference on 9th June where I am clearly listed as speaking. At 8.51 she tweets that she is going to this conference ‘see you there?’ I am alarmed by this as there is no reason for her to go to this conference other than to attempt to make physical contact with me. She posts various tweets in which I am named.
I email DC Downs and ask that the police now give serious consideration to arresting Ms Hewson as this harassment has occurred after service of a PIN.

04/05/03/17 Late on Saturday night and early Sunday morning Ms Hewson publishes further derogatory tweets, and directs one to my HoC. I forward these to DC Downs.
On Sunday morning I have a telephone conversation with DC Downs who say he has received a 9 page email from Ms Hewson to say that the Met are breaching her human rights. He then emails me to say

I have reviewed these screenshots. Because twitter is a public domain everybody has the right to express their freedom of speech. This is regulated by twitter themselves. Unless you are physically mentioned with the @ sign to your direct twitter account, this does not qualify as harassment of malicious communications.

The harassment warning has been served to Ms HEWSON and remains in place.

Unless there are any direct messages or tweets with the @ sign to your account the police cannot take any further action. However, please continue to record tweets which you believe are aimed at you for any civil proceedings you wish to take.

06/03/17 Having received no response from the BSB to my email of 22nd February and 28th February, I make my third complaint that Ms Hewson continues to victimise me for having made a complaint about her.
The BSB then email after I have posted this complaint to say that I can submit new evidence in support of my first two complaints, rather than make a fresh complaint.
Later that evening/early morning of next day Ms Hewson posts some derogatory tweets about me using my direct Twitter handle. She also contacts the Head of my Chambers Family Team directly

07/03/17 I email DC Downs to request confirmation that the Met will take no further action against Ms Hewson and ask for copies of the PIN and my statement. I am considering applying for a civil injunction as a litigant in person.
Further derogatory tweets later that evening/early morning 8th March including the allegation that I make ‘vexatious, incessant, untrue and malicious’ complaints.

08/03/17 Ms Hewson is challenged by another Twitter user for re-publishing a tweet where this user was called a ‘cunt’. She points out that Ms Hewson is ‘targeting and harassing’ me in a ‘persistent’ way which looks ‘vindictive, malicious and obsessive’.
Ms Hewson refrains from any further harassment of me on this date.

09/03/17-29/03/17 Ms Hewson’s account remains protected and she steadily reduces the number of people ‘following’ her on Twitter from approx. 3K to approx. 100
I am not aware if she publishes anything derogatory about me or my Chambers.  The 9th of March was supposedly the date by which she was to respond to the BSB regarding my complaint but I receive no information about this and to this date remain entirely unaware of her response.

24/03/17 I am emailed by a student, Mehul Desai,  to say he is very distressed that Ms Hewson has been sending him threatening emails very late at night and has contacted his University. Ms Hewson is demanding that Mr Desai remove the publications he has made via Twitter of her correspondence.
I understand that Mr Desai also makes complaints to the police and the BSB about Ms Hewson’s behaviour.

30/03/17 Late at night on 30th or early in the morning of the 31st, Ms Hewson unlocks her accounts and makes derogatory remarks directed explicitly at me, another barrister and my Chambers. She also publishes my photograph again.

31/03/17 I consider making further complaint to the police but when I check Ms Hewson’s account around noon I note that it is protected again. As no one but her now (significantly depleted) numbers of followers can see what she publishes, I decide that I will not report this but will keep an eye on her on line activities and see what develops over the next few days, with a view to making a fresh police complaint if the public harassment continues.

It’s still going on – but enough is enough.  I can only hope now that with her much reduced following and the considerable publicity about her activities, my reputation is protected from her continued denigration. 

48 thoughts on “Hewson: We have a problem – online harassment and how we just don’t deal with it.



  2. James

    So sorry, Sarah. 🙁 Just reading through that is shocking and infuriating, let alone being harassed in that way for so long!

    It’s very reminiscent, sad to say, of what I went through myself, when one of those named above published that I’m a convicted paedophile (absolutely untrue), targeted my wife and we received death threats, one to my home address which had been published by these horrific people.

    You’re an excellent professional, as well as being undeniablly tolerant, anyone with a conscience can see that; which is why for me, the delays which always seem to happen from supposedly professional bodies occur far too often in these areas of abuse. This repeatedly stacks the system against any victim of online harassment, particularly as you make mention of, those who can’t afford civil litigation. Isn’t the law of the land set up exactly for those most vulnerable within our society, because it very much looks like that’s failing, hugely.

  3. Min Grob


    If it is ok with you, I would like to use this post and the timeline for a series of talks I will be giving on various forms of intimidatory behaviour.

    I first became aware of Ms Hewson through her rather horrid comments about someone I had asked to speak at a conference I was organising. I felt the comments were cruel and unnecessary and was surprised to discover that Ms Hewson was a CoP and Human Rights barrister. Over the coming months, I saw what she was posting and the response she was attracting- both from her supporters and from her detractors- and I was struck by the vehemence of their blinkered viewpoints.

    In 2016, Ms Hewson wrote an article entitled ‘THE FAMILY COURTS MAKE A MOCKERY OF JUSTICE’. Although I have had bad experiences of the Family Courts, I felt the article was a poor assessment of the Family Courts and family lawyers in general and feeds into the ‘Secret Family Court do Bad Things’ narrative which, coming from a legal professional, I found very concerning. As a result of that article and the responses you have referred to above, Ms Hewson has entered into a mean-spirited, spiteful, often vitriolic attack which, in my opinion, showed bullying, controlling, intimidating and at times erratic behaviour.

    The reason I felt compelled to write is that all too often, behaviour like this will be seen as reciprocal or tit for tat. Having read many of your tweets, I would describe your style as forthright, belligerent, unswerving, relentless and, at times, undiplomatic. I would not describe your style as abusive but it wouldn’t surprise me if some people get upset by what you write.

    Ms Hewson, on the other hand is someone I WOULD call abusive. The reasons are too manifold to go into now but suffice it to say that the timeline is a comprehensive plethora of ‘red flags’ hidden in plain sight.

    There is this prevailing myth that a victim can only be a real victim if they are *perfect*. By responding, the police, as you have found out, tend to have a view that the abuse is being encouraged. For many many reasons, I firmly believe this is the wrong view to take. A victim can be a victim regardless of whether they are stroppy, respond, don’t block and their responses as human beings should not count against them. Put a frightened animal in a cage and corner it and it does not always cower.

    We need to let go of this idea that victims ought to believe a certain way and. If they don’t, they are undeserving of being treated in the same way as someone who has stayed quiet and has not engaged. I suspect much of the reason for that view is that it makes identification and therefore evidencing, so much easier than the time consuming task of unravelling the spaghetti junction of ‘who said this, how did they respond’ and failure to do precisely that is resulting in abusers having the ability to carry on with their (mainly) mindgames safe in the knowledge that if they prod and poke their victim into responding they can legitimately claim it is not them.

    This has HUGE repercussions not only for online harassment, cyberstalking but in Court. More specifically Family Court as this is, very often, how coercive controllers behave. They aim to elicit a reaction either through distress (often the distress is seen as being ‘hostile’ ‘intractable’) or as part of a mental illness OR they will elicit a response out of anger and then claim they are being victimised, the other person is the abuser etc etc…

    This is not to say that there aren’t people who are mutually abusive, jointly responsible but to lump every situation as ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ is, to my mind lazy policing/ lazy Family Court etc judgments and ensures that the abuser carries on ‘invisible in plain sight’ and that is a problem for every one.

    It is my understanding that your altercation with Ms Hewson has been widely seen as unedifying behaviour from two professionals acting like children. I strongly believe that that is an incorrect view as, when looking at the whole interaction since the Spiked article by Ms Hewson, there is a very clear pattern of humiliation, shaming, degrading, belittling, mocking, threatening, intimidating, frightening – both directly and indirectly – as well as of flying monkeys on both sides wading in to further muddy the waters to obscure what is really going on.

    Instead of dismissing harassment or failing to identify the real victim in a course of conduct which presents as reciprocal, it is incumbent on the police, the courts, child protection etc etc to ensure proper training by the right staff ( who understand it!) to be able to see the red flags, otherwise vulnerable adults, elderly, children will be failed and the legislation around coercive control and stalking will not provide the protection it was designed to.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I agree with everything you say here.
      I would be delighted if something good can come out of this whole sorry mess, so please do feel free to use whatever material of mine you would find helpful in continuing to raise awareness of this problem.

  4. Angelo Granda

    Are there too many coincidences? Insults on line, lack of adequate investigation and action/response to your complaints by other professionals and the Police unable or unwilling to act . Apparent hacking of your website.
    You just so happen to run the CPR which is an impartial resource open to all which works towards justice and improved practice in the child-protection system also you are dedicated to transparency and allowing victims the chance to be heard. You also run an annual professional’s conference with the same aims where members can meet and discuss matters.
    A couple of years ago, I mentioned the possibility that you would face organised opposition from those who have an interest in securing the current status-quo.
    I don’t believe in coincidences very much.
    The only other thing which might be the driver is money. Apparently , sites which appeal to the lowest common denominator, which use vile language, publish ‘fake’ news etc. can make a hell of a lot of money depending on the number of ‘hits’ it gets.
    Not long ago ,we were discussing pogroms back in the old days and you may remember the history books state that their success relied upon the lack of action and/or collusion of the authorities. Is that what is happening here?

    1. HelenSparkles

      Rather than a conspiracy, I think this is an example of regulators, law enforcement etc. not keeping up with the online world and struggling to enforce what would be enforceable if other means were used.

      1. Angelo Granda

        I totally agree with you, Helen. People are using the online media for offensive and illegal purposes ( including intimidation) .
        Unfortunately I don’t think it is possible to tackle it by use of complaints procedures or civil courts because they will add crap into the ‘b of p’ such as ‘By opting into twitter and suchlike,Sarah has opted into the abuse and must live with it.
        No ,she should not. The sort of behaviour she describes must go before a criminal court. Yet the Police refuse to act and charge anyone. Is Sarah hoist upon the Civil Court petard? When Mums complain about dv , the Police won’t investigate properly, they just pass the buck to Social Workers and the civil Family Court. Complain to Police about LA abuse or perjury and they pass the buck again by referring victims to the LA complaints committee.
        Sarah ,if you believe a criminal offence has been committed like offensive or threatening behaviour ,then try and insist on bringing charges. Don’t waste your hard-earned money in a civil court. It just isn’t worth it. If criminal charges are placed, it will not cost you a penny.
        I guess you have many enemies both from the establishment and from the underground organisations and campaigners . Have you considered this site might have been sabotaged by hackers and that some body or other is monitoring it? Or am I over-reacting?

      2. Anonymous


        While I agree that there’s most likely no conspiracy happening here, I’m not sure that it is simply an example of regulators/law enforcement etc not keeping up with the online world.

        Quite frankly, Hewson would have been arrested by now if she was

        (1) male and
        (2) not a barrister (or even if she was a male barrister).

        Her behaviour has, time and again, crossed the line from expressing controversial views (and I fully support her right to express controversial views) into criminal harassment of those who disagree with and/or challenge her.

        There are also failings by the BRB as regards protection.

  5. Victoria Martin

    Oh, James.

    Tell Sarah about the lengths of abuse you have created.

    Be transparent.


    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Dear Victoria

      Take your snide comments elsewhere please. This is a blog post about how I had to put up with this kind of shit for seven months. Please don’t think for one moment it will be tolerated here. Either say what you mean and mean what you say or go home.

  6. Victoria Martin

    Dear Sarah

    Hardly snide they are. I do not disrespect the blog you wrote.

    [EDIT REDACTED I am deleting this. I have absolutely zero interest in descending further into the cesspit inhabited by Simon Just et al.

    Victoria – if you have useful information, then please do email. you have my details as well. I will not deal in insinuations, hints, or further attempts to create some kind of blood feud in the comments section of MY blog. Any further comments from you along these lines will simply be deleted.

    Life is far too short and far too precious for me to spend any more of it engaging with the dysfunctional and the damaged, unless it forms part of of the remit of THIS site, which is to help people involved in child protection proceedings].

  7. AT

    You’re vindicated by Barbara Hewson’s continued harassment of [redacted] who is widely known to be a vulnerable adult: Barbara has Tweeted that she believes he is mental.

    There are various others who, upon a brief check of their timelines appear to claim to have been abused as children. While claiming to have been abused doesn’t mean much – we can claim anything – to continuously belittle them as ‘lunatic’ and ‘mental’ when several of them do seem to struggle with mental health issues can’t be seen for anything other than it is: Open ridicule of vulnerable people.

    Since Hewson does CoP work, she has to know that her conduct is disgusting and could lead the more vulnerable among those she is trolling to do a number of things, including self-harm, drink or require crisis intervention if they take it all to heart.

  8. Darren Laverty

    Whether you like it or not I am innocent of anything that others accuse me of. This remains the case until a jury decide or otherwise. The court/bench/magistrates agreed that I was and have been proven to be the victim of stalking/internet trolls. 3 years of stalking of myself and my loved ones and anyone that associated with me culminated with this conviction. I’m at a loss as to the use of my name with regards to your complaints about BH. Maybe you’d like to publicly evidence just what I’m supposed to have done to attract your attention.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      As I understand it you have been arrested on a charge of stalking Esther Baker and an unnamed journalist. this is a matter of public record. You also associate with Barbara Hewson frequently on Twitter. This is a matter of concern to me given her very public animus against Esther Baker.

      I fail to see how referring to a matter of public record and actual fact is a) perverting the course of justice or b)intimidating a witness in a criminal trial, as your colleague Simon Just continually asserts, from the attempted privacy of his ‘anonymous’ Twitter account.

      Possibly the police can enlighten me when they arrest and charge me. Simon assures me this is any day now.

  9. Darren Laverty

    What happened to innocent until proven guilty?
    Did you not read the article I posted?
    Do you believe that I was the victim?
    Do you think it was wise to name me in your e-mail?
    We have never spoken or discussed a spoken word yet you’ve hung drawn and quartered me.
    I can’t comment on those who accuse me due to bail conditions. I’m abiding by them until I don’t have to.
    Why are you naming me as an associate of other twitter accounts? I’m not anyones colleague and I associate with many on twitter. BH is just one. Are all my interactions deemed as criminal?
    Thank you allowing this discussion.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry you think I have ‘hung drawn and quartered you’.
      But that is clearly an over-reaction.
      I have referred in one email to your arrest. That was a private email directed to Ms Hewson’s solicitors. She chose to publish it on line. If by publishing such information one is perverting the course of justice, then perhaps the police also need to be having a word with Ms Hewson.

      your on line friendship with Barbara Hewson is equally a matter of public record.

      If you are not an ‘associate’ or friend of Simon Just, then I apologise for so labelling you and will withdraw that accusation. From what I know of his behaviour, I can understand why it is not an association anyone would wish to have.

      I don’t think there is any merit in any further discussion along these lines, so I will not publish any further comments from you.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Good. I am glad to hear it. But you seem to be admitting on Twitter that you DID send leaflets and you now admit it was the wrong thing to do. I hope you continue to bear those lessons in mind ‘moving forward’.

      I have permitted this comment as you are keen to establish that you were not convicted, which is only fair.

      But no more.

      I don’t know what games you and Just are playing, and I don’t care to know.

      But now – you will go and play them somewhere else.

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    1. christopher

      This alleged victim of Laverty provides a link to a recent extensive set of blogs by myself that was taken down a few days ago. I had published nothing that was not already in the public domain but WordPress took my blogs down. Why, because it exposes Simon Ronald Just and all the members of the SuperTroll gang he is an active member of. Their Modus Operandi is to make mass complaints to WordPress, they have done this before to others just as they do on Twitter.

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  12. christopher

    Hi Sarah, we followed each other on twitter and i sent you some links to assist you but Twitter gave me a permanent ban and i had not even tweeted anyone with anything abusive. You know Darren Richard Laverty is a friend of Janette Scharenborg the mistress of the entire SuperTroll Gang and they are both great friends of Simon Ronal Just. Laverty is a monster and he joined in to a lesser degree of the years of abuse of myself and my partner than resulted in causing his sudden death in November 2016. I published this blog about his part in what a leading stalking campaigner calls the stalking story of the century.https://stalkersdotblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/first-blog-post/
    I wish you the very best of luck in destroying these purely evil entities and if I can be of any assistance whatsoever please to not hesitate to contact me.

  13. christopher

    National Stalking Awareness Week. What a joke, it is connected to Protection Against Stalking , and the CEO’s of that shambles of an organization promoted a convicted criminal member of the gang, see a blog my friend published about that member and what he did to myself and my partner, and the organization that ably assisted him here https://dorsetpoliceignoredomesticviolenceorderbreaches.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/convicted-criminal-ronnie-hobby-threats-to-christopher-causing-him-to-fear-violence-against-him/

  14. christopher

    Stalking awareness indeed, see this about one of the founders of that organizationhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2944285/Red-No-Day-Comic-Relief-cancels-100k-grant-anti-stalking-body-MoS-expose-controversial-boss-sees-five-caseworkers-walk-out.html
    Here she is againhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3489626/Anti-stalking-charity-boss-told-weren-t-stalked-colleague-faces-claims-overstated-role-Milly-Dowler-case.html
    and this is interesting
    Here the hypocrite refers to domestic abuse and my Dorset police, what a joke, i have a precedent in Law Domestic Abuse/Violence order on a member of the gang that has been breached 500 times since late 2012, the order has automatic power of arrest without having to obtain an arrest warrant and they do nothing to assist me https://twitter.com/laurarichards99/status/430954486245642240

  15. christopher

    You can read about the whole gang and what they did to us on my banned Twitter account herehttps://twitter.com/manalienmoreyam?lang=en

  16. christopher

    Laverty as usual is lying, see all his tweets with Simon just in the following. @I_Loathe_Trolls was Simon Just, it has been proven!
    Simon Just of Kendal in Cumbria a.k.a @I_Loathe_Trolls …
    28 Jun 2015 – @I_Loathe_Trolls @paulrogers002 @IanMcFadyen1966 @drlavertyx Not once have I interacted with any of them, and never will, they still …@chickell tweets – Pastebin.com
    12 Oct 2015 – •@RothleyPillow @drlavertyx you’re anything but boring hun, you …… •RT @RothleyPillow: @ChickEll @supervetty @I_Loathe_Trolls She will …

  17. christopher

    Sarah, i had been advising Theresa May for several years that the only way to deal with this type of abuse is a supranational agreement to stop internet abuse, not just of terrorists but the very cyber criminals you blog and tweet about.

    There is already an effective hundreds of years old civil and criminal international Tort that i used in 2010 which resulted in the closure of Charles Saatchi’s disgracefully abusive so called ART website on which I had an artists gallery and was abused 247/x4 and he would do nothing about it. He is even in constructive civil contempt of a court order in my Family Law successful 4 day trial of one of the gang members.

    The tort is ‘Scienter’ – foreknowledge and hails from the time when wealthy landowners would put do not trespass signs on their properties warning of dangerous animals. If a trespasser was harmed by an animal, the landowner would be dragged before magistrates and dealt with under Scienter as they had foreknowledge of what could happen and were held culpable and dealt with accordingly.

    In its modern day context the Tort can deal with abusive social media websites who actually warn you that you may be abused on their platforms, and if you are abused and quote them Scienter then any further abuse is their responsibility as they had been made aware of the abuse.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Dear Christopher – that sounds interesting but is not in accordance with my understanding of the law of tort. However, I accept I have made no serious study of it since my university days so I may be behind the times. However, it is my understanding that you cannot escape liability for negligently causing death or serious injury, even if you do put up warning signs. Presumably the situation you refer to does not involve negligence?

      Anyway, I would agree with you that some action and a clear legal pathway is desperately needed. There are some very sad and dangerous individuals on line who are causing a great deal of fear and distress and nobody seems to have the will to do much about it.

  18. christopher

    The trolls recently took their abuse of me outside of the cozy confines of social media and into real world mainstream media where i live. They actually emailed me to let me know they had set up various anonymous accounts on the Dorset Echo. Then i found all their comments about me on dozens of articles that were not even about me! I and others have taken this up with the editor Andy Martin and the police who are investigation the years of abuse against me and my late partner who they are responsible for the death of.

    Simple solution to online and social media abuse, and i have put this to the Editor and also to IPSO who are currently investigating the dozens of abusive comments relating to me in the Echo over the past three weeks.

    The simple solution is that all social media platforms and every mainstream media websites forbid registration to comment by using a third party anonymous email address. Simple solution is they only allow commenters who sign up for commenting accounts if they provide a 1st party email address connected to their internet service provider account. This does not prevent them being anonymous in their commenting, they can still use a pseudonym but would be very reluctant to leave abusive comments as they would be fully aware that the media outlet they sign up to would have their genuine email address and that they could be traced. As I said, simple. IPSO telephoned me yesterday regarding the recent abuse of myself and they are now fully investigating.

  19. christopher

    You may find this unbelievable. This is a member of the SuperTroll Gang and friend of Simon Ronald Just, who myself and another victim faced at bournemouth Crown Court on the 20th April 2017. Dorset police arranged for us to be protected by two uniformed police officers. However they did not anticipate thishttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXRX3eqU2ho
    Despite the District Judge telling this abuser he must not publish anything online, he went home and published a blog and put this video on his youtube channel and claimed this is us car stalking and abusing him. He took this video from his car, edited out two of his death threats but did not realise he left his death threat to me in the video. He had parked in front of the Crown Court building in his BMW which had no number plates on back or front, we took photographs and video to prove this and the police have done absolutely nothing!

  20. christopher

    Interesting, Darren Richard Lavery’s nemesis and sworn enemy Royden James Jones has been removing pdf files from his outlaw blog and allegedly denying they were on there. I have just discovered another very interesting one in Google Cache that has vanished from his website! Lots of interesting things about Laverty.

    1. Anonymous

      Christopher. The link you have posted is like your endless malicious allegations and police complaints — they lead nowhere. The PDF you refer to has not been removed as it has been posted in the comments above. Could you please refrain from publishing your continual lies all over the Internet and dragging innocent people into your endless vandettas please?

      1. Angelo Granda

        I don’t know Christopher and I don’t know anonymous and I’m not really interested in individual cases like Darren Laverty’s .
        I would point out to Christopher and Anonymous however, that it is nothing knew for the Authorities to accuse victims and complainants of ‘malicious lies’ etc. It is their way of avoiding issues. Attack ,Attack, Attack! Torah,Torah,Torah !
        Yet it is usually they who alter reports and evidence, make malicious false representations etc. See Hillsborough and other enquiries into institutional corruption. Authorities do cover up.
        Having said all this, I don’t wish to take sides on this particular issue. That’s why I don’t go on Twitter etc.

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