A couple who scared a judge into installing CCTV and a panic button have had their appeal against conviction dismissed.

Gary Hilson and Tracy McCarthy, from Bow, were convicted last year of harassing Her Honour Judge Carol Atkinson, a family judge, during a two week period in 2017. She had presided over the couple's "long and contentious litigation" related to an adoption.

The harassment began the day before a court hearing. Hilson and McCarthy emailed documents to the judge's personal email address which, four years earlier, she had accidentally tweeted while trying to DM it to a friend. The couple found the information while combing through years of her social media posts.

The next day Hilson and McCarthy mentioned twice as they walked through court security that they knew HHJ Atkinson's home address. At the end of the hearing, on the pretext of discussing service of a document, they made accurate comments about her daughter's trips to the swimming pool:

Hilson: All right you could always pop it like as you goes to the aquatic centre. We're right next to the Olympic Park.

McCarthy: She don't go. Her husband takes it.

As they left court, Hison wished HHJ Atkinson a happy birthday and McCarthy added the correct date. The day after her birthday, the judge received a card at her home address purporting to be from Tony and Cherie Blair, although the message indicated it was not from the former Prime Minister and his wife. "Keep up the good work stealing for profit", it said. "Don't drink too much raspberry gin and stagger back to Sarf, London. Love Tony and Cheri. P.S. Send my regards to Christopher."


blair

Were they also harassing Tony? 


Two days later the pair posted a Facebook video in which they made "highly derogatory" comments about the judge and gave further details about her family's routines. They also boasted about how well they had spooked their target:

McCarthy: Thing is, we did mention a few of this stuff in court. You've gave a few hints, subtle hints, over and she's clocked right on to us. She clocked right on.

Hilson: She locked her Facebook down. Her husband's is still open.

McCarthy: She's done that because we addressed her in our document in her actual name, both names, so she knew we had information on her.

At their trial for harassment last July, HHJ Atkinson described from behind a screen how her family was so intimidated she had a panic button and CCTV installed at home, and alerted her daughters' schools. "I have never felt as threatened or intimidated as I did in this case", she said. "I have never had to step out of a case because someone has done that."

"I had to sit down and show [my youngest daughter] a picture of Mr Hilson because she wanted to know who to look out for on the bus, why the police were coming around and seizing property - and why we had CCTV".

HHJ Atkinson said that months later, "We do not open the front door without looking through the spyhole. She still checks the CCTV camera before going to the front door".

Hearing the appeal, Lord Justice Simon agreed with the trial judge that the bar for harassment had been met. On at least two occasions, he ruled, Hilson and McCarthy engaged in conduct which targeting an individual who was foreseeably likely to be harmed by it, and which was calculated to cause alarm or distress, and which could be objectively judged to be oppressive and unacceptable.

"It went beyond conduct which was merely unattractive and unreasonable", he said.  "Their conduct was designed to harass and intimidate her in relation to her public duty to the prejudice of the proper administration of justice".

Dismissing their appeal, LJ Simon risked receipt of his own creepy card from the Blairs and upheld Hilson & McCarthy's 16 week prison sentence.

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Comments

Anon 31 May 19 09:09

@Anon 08:15 Are you joking? This behaviour is clearly unacceptable and deserves a criminal sanction. How would you feel if your own safety, and that of your family, were threatened simply because you are doing your job?

Anonymous 31 May 19 09:11

"Don't drink too much raspberry gin and stagger back to Sarf, London."  Was this written by somebody from Paul, Weiss?

Anon 31 May 19 09:13

Do you have a problem with the law against harassment full stop, or only when applied to judges?

Anonymous 31 May 19 10:14

Not joking 09:09. I'd feel the same as you probably would if I or my family was threatened (whether for doing a job or not), but I see no genuine or credible threat here. We're talking about sending a birthday card. Annoying to the recipient maybe, but the police and courts simply don't have the resources to deal with this sort of thing.

Anonymous 31 May 19 10:47

@10:14 Your opinion is ridiculous. Their comments and actions were clearly designed to intimidate the judge in relation to the adoption proceedings. I sincerely hope that this couple is never allowed to adopt and, if they naturally have a child, that social services take it away. Can you imagine how messed up that child's upbringing would be!?

Anonymous 31 May 19 12:42

You're hysterical 10:47. I don't think some of the actions were designed to intimidate the judge at all. You're seriously trying to argue that someone sending a judge a Christmas card or wishing her happy birthday shouldvhave their children taken off of them. Doesn't sound as if you're fit to judge on the matter, you have no sense of perspective.

Anonymous 31 May 19 13:07

It appears that 12:42 is connected to these losers. Hope they get their just deserts in jail.   @12:42. Please publish your name, address, and telephone number on this forum as you apparently have no issue with strange actions being carried out with someone's personal details.

Anonymous 31 May 19 15:05

It takes a high degree of emotional immaturity, 13:07, to assume that because someone disagrees with you they must be connected to the peiple you are attacking. Argue your point logically by all means, but try to do so in a less hysterical manner. Just as the person demanding that this couple's children should be taken from them for wishing a judge happy birthday, your hoping they get their 'just desserts' in prison shows you are also unfit to pass judgement, or perhaps you're one and the same person. Posts here are anonymous (yours included), and I wouldn't advise anyone to post personal details here, especially when they might be read by someone with such limited judgement that they think that thinking something is a waste of court and police time is the same as having 'no issue' with it.

Human 31 May 19 16:48

These creeps obviously thought they were keeping on the right side of the law by keeping it subtle, and I have to say I think they succeeded. Yes, they were clearly trying to harass. No, they didn't do anything which in my view is sufficiently concrete to justify any alarm, and their actions were clearly carefully calibrated.  The implication is that these individuals knew where to draw the line well before physical violence or fear of violence. They were objectively being vexatious PITAs, not intimidating thugs. I don't think installing a panic button and CCTV was a necessary or proportionate response from an objective point of view. The subjective response to the threat in no way establishes objective evidence for its severity. I expect judges in particular to have the appropriate judicial temperament and not  to take the bait. In the same way as they shouldn't be easily provoked to anger, they should not be easily provoked to fear. And while technically this was an attempt to intimidate a judge, that is a mitigation, not an aggravating factor - I expect judges to soak up more.

Anonymous 31 May 19 17:36

She wasn't forced to buy a panic button and cctv, but chose to. She of course had the right to do so, but it may have been an over-reaction.

Anonymous 31 May 19 18:11

Human, your comment is by far the best of the day on this article. While not condoning in any way their actions, you succeed in putting in a very clear fashion why this shouldn't have resulted in a guilty verdict in a criminal court. Thoughtful and well-argued.

Anonymous 31 May 19 19:35

The incredibly lack of empathy from Human and it’s obvious sock puppets is disgusting. Who on earth are you to say that a family over reacted by installing security measures after two people dug through their bins, effectively, to find their home address and contact details and their KIDS’ ROUTINES and then weaponised them as threats. Your blindness to this indicates you are very weird. And creepy. 

Anonymous 31 May 19 20:36

I'm not Human, @19.35, but I completely agree with them. There seems to be a common theme among those defending the decision, be it suggesting that the couple have their children taken from them, that they get their 'just desserts' in prison, etc, there looks to be a deal of hysteria going on. Your name-calling and talking about 'sock puppets', 'digging through bins' and 'weaponising' home addresses are further examples of this hysteria. I think the judge over-reacted with the cctv and panic button and am perfectly entitled to that view, it doesn't show a lack of empathy. No comments so far have come close to persuading otherwise.

Human 02 June 19 15:24

Having said what I said and despite a lack of objective evidence of "actual menace" creepy harassment just to be a PITA is a crime. Just not one which IMO and having reviewed the guidelines should attract a prison sentence, especially in the context of reasonable empathy with parents who have just lost their child. 

Anonymous 03 June 19 11:00

Unfortunately life is full of people deliberately being PITAs. Their actions generally shouldn't be classified as criminal unless there is a genuine objective threat. There just aren't the resources for the police to deal with every PITA. This case only resulted in a jail sentence because a judge was involved.

Anonymous 03 June 19 23:29

The comments arguing with the conclusion of the Divisional Court are a bit odd. Was the conduct objectively oppressive and unacceptable? The couple: (i) said to the Court security staff that they knew where the judge lived; (ii) described her family's routine in taking her daughter to her leisure centre;  (iii) trawled the internet to find her personal email address and sent her emails; (iv) sent her a card on her birthday to her home address saying "Keep up the good work stealing for profit. Don't drink too much raspberry gin and stagger back to Sarf, London. Love Tony and Cheri. P.S. Send my regards to Christopher." How exactly is the judge supposed to have 'not taken the bait'? Should she have waited until this couple, who clearly bore a grudge, actually approached her daughter or knocked on her door before getting concerned? Consider that for a moment as a barometer of objectively acceptable behaviour. The couple themselves accepted before the Divisional Court that (i) and (iv) amounted to harassment. The comments by Human and the anonymous comments complimenting them read to me as if they are written by the same person. I wonder who that could be?

    Anonymous 04 June 19 12:19

    I just wonder if the judge had received better advice and been calmed down a bit whether this would have been dealt with in a more measured way.

    Anonymous 04 June 19 19:36

    The conduct can't objectively be viewed as criminal. After all, the judge could have i) not have been given the details of the discussion in front of security, which the couple didn't make the judge privy to, ii) accepted that the knowledge of the judge's routine was gained from publicly available sources, which the couple were entitled to view and that there wasn't an obvious attempt to intimidate, iii) blocked the emails (the couple didn't trawl the internet, they found the email address easily on the judge's public Twitter feed) or accepted that any emails were sent to the judge's personal email address to ensure they were seen by the judge and iv) disposed of the Christmas card which contained no threats. Sending a Christmas card is by no means a criminal offence. There was no explicit or credible threat from the couple. In my view the judge over-reacted. Where do you see the couple accepting before the Divisional Court that i) and iv) amounted to harassment - the High Court transcript says that the couple accept it could - that's not the same as it did, and I find it difficult to see how sending a Christmas card could amount to harassment in many cases. Human was complemented for their comments because they showed some thought and, while criticising the couple, maintained perspective, unlike some of the other comments, which called for them to get their 'just desserts' in prison or to have their children taken from them. To assume that anyone complementing Human must in fact be Human and also, as seems to be suggested, also one or both of the couple in the case, shows a lack of ability to properly consider opposing views and calls into question whether someone making those assumptions can objectively decide on what is harassment and what isn't.