Martin Brookes has won a court case accusing him of harassing local political leaders, but his nightmare isn’t over
A secret gang have made life hell for a gay man who exposes wrongdoing by local politicians – by harassing him and branding him a pedophile.
Martin Brookes’ blog into local politics in Central England has uncovered embarrassing facts for his area’s local councils that have been picked up by the BBC and Private Eye, the UK satirical and investigative journalism magazine.
But rather than being thanked, he’s been hounded – sent hate mail and left anonymous phone messages threatening him. He’s even been taken to court himself, accused of stalking and harassing two council bigwigs.
Brookes, 47, moved to Oakham, the main town in the landlocked county of Rutland, in the heart of England, seven years ago.
He got involved in the online Rutland Chat Forum but says people there attacked him because he is gay.
When, in 2009 he realized some of those people were involved in the local councils, he became interested in politics.
He says he uncovered ‘small wrongdoings’ by local politicians, including his criticism they spent £60,000 ($97,000 €70,000) of council money on a private gym.
He even got a seat on Oakham Town Council twice but stood down the first time after a few months because the attacks on him became too much.
He was kicked out the second time after posting an indecent image on a council noticeboard – he said he had been sent the picture and thought it was ‘bullying’ but accepted he should not have put it up.
His approach to challenging the council, however, led to a series of hate crimes against him.
From 2010 he was sent numerous letters branding him ‘Pedophile Brookes’ with ‘disgusting, homophobic and sexually explicit’ content. He was even falsely accused of his partner’s murder.
He told Gay Star News: ‘They have called me a sponger, prostitute and a pedophile.
‘They sent me emails and messages saying things like I bet you are glad your partner was cremated after you murdered him, you are the only man in Rutland who has had sex with a dead man.’
The false claims of pedophilia were spread online too.
Brookes said: ‘The police had to come and tell my neighbors I am not a pedophile because I was challenged outside in my street by people saying we don’t want pedophiles living here.
‘The police had to go to the local youth club to tell the young men there – and one of them assaulted me – “Mr Brookes is not a pedophile”.’
But he claims police ignored the actions of the people harassing him, even throwing away hate letters left with them as evidence.
He said: ‘Over the years I reported hate crimes to local police they did nothing. One police officer suggested if I didn’t like Rutland I should consider moving.
‘I own my property here and I don’t have a job, I can’t get a job, so I can’t move. If I could move, I would. But then I think why should I?’
Then two people, Rutland County Council chief executive Helen Briggs and Oakham Town Councilor Charles Haworth accused Brookes of stalking and harassing them, the police prosecuted and he went on trial.
He was found not guilty at Leicester Magistrates Court on Monday (14 October).
District Judge John Temperley said Brookes was not harassing Briggs by repeatedly emailing and blogging about her, just using his freedom of expression.
He also accepted Brookes had phoned and texted Haworth because he was trying to find out who was attacking him on a website which had been set up anonymously by the councilor.
As the Rutland Times reports, Judge Temperley said: ‘Freedom of expression is an essential function of a democratic society. It is applicable also to those who offend and shock.
‘Some of the comment is harsh, shocking or personally offensive, but that does not mean it is criminal.’
Haworth had argued in the trial his attacks on Brookes on his Laughing Stocks website were satirical.
But Judge Temperley said: ‘I don’t agree. Some of the material goes way beyond satire. They are crude and crass and homophobic.’
And the judge said other claims made by Howarth against Brookes were ‘exaggerated’.
Now, finally, the police have approached Brookes about investigating his claims he has been harassed and threatened – though it is not clear exactly who all the anonymous messages and calls have come from.
Brookes told GSN: ‘In general, the people who live in Rutland who are not involved in politics are very nice people.
‘I have had people coming up to me in the last few days to congratulate me on my win.
‘There are good, honest people on the local councils too.
‘If you look at the people themselves doing this, they do not share one political allegiance. It is a very small core of hardened Rutlanders who will attack in a foul way.’
But despite his court win, the nightmare isn’t over. Brookes’ announcement he will seek criminal prosecution of his persecutors has been met with more anonymous phone threats – telling him to back off.
His house in Willow Crescent, Oakham is under 24-hour CCTV surveillance as the false claims he is a pedophile have made him a potential target.
He said: ‘They have ruined my life in this town. It is scary to be intimidated. Friends are scared to be seen with me. I can’t explain how much this has affected me. And you think what on earth have I done?’