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."
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.