Doncaster man jailed for sending 'threatening' letter to Anna Soubry in her role as MP after Brexit 'red mist descended'

A Doncaster man has been jailed for sending a ‘threatening’ letter to Anna Soubry, in her role as MP, in which he suggested she would be murdered like Jo Cox.

Anna Soubry speaking at a People's Vote event held at Victoria Hall in Sheffield in January this year
Anna Soubry speaking at a People's Vote event held at Victoria Hall in Sheffield in January this year

During a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court earlier today, Judge David Dixon jailed Alden Bryce Barlow, of Milton Walk, Hyde Park for 12 months for sending a letter conveying a threatening message to Anna Soubry, in her role as an MP.

The letter read: ‘COX WAS FIRST, YOU ARE NEXT,’ referring to the Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox who was murdered outside the venue for her constituency surgery in June 2016. Her killer, Thomas Mair, was sentenced to a whole life term, following a trial held in November 2016.

Barlow’s letter, which Judge Dixon described as ‘grossly offensive and extremely threatening,’ was sent in October last year and also contained words such as ‘treacherous’ and ‘worthless’.

“We all hope that our elected representatives will act in the nation’s best interests, without fear or favour. We may disagree with what they are doing, but our system is based on trusting them to do the right thing. Anyone that threatens that process, by seeking to limit, censure or scare the representatives, threatens our society,” Judge Dixon told Barlow, 55.

He continued: “This was cold-hearted and calculated activity designed to cause considerable distress to Ms Soubry, and to cause her to think twice about arguing her position.”

In another letter sent to Ms Soubry, Barlow claimed to have become ‘so transfixed by Brexit, and ensuring that it happens’ after watching a television debate on the topic that ‘a red mist descended’ and he acted in a fit of rage by sending the letter.

Judge Dixon said he rejected this assertion.

“The document has been written in what seems to be carefully constructed block capitals, doubtless because you felt it would be harder for the authorities to trace you as the author…This was no instinctive reaction in anger, this activity took time and there were ample opportunities for you to reflect upon your actions...You took time to determine which public figure to target, and here I note you did not single out a man but chose a female MP, when there are men equally in the spotlight.

“You had to find her address, and then endorse those details on the envelope. You then had to go into Doncaster and use the self service till. All of that took time and was clearly thought out, I repeat this was not someone acting in a fit of rage, this was deliberate activity,” he said.

Barlow was traced following analysis of both the letter, which had his fingerprints on the rear, and CCTV from the post office counter in the Doncaster branch of WH Smith, where he posted the letter.

It was addressed to Ms Soubry at her constituency office, and was opened by her constituency manager, who called the police.

In a statement submitted to the court, Ms Soubry said she the letter feeling ‘very frightened’ for her safety, but also, predominately, for her staff.

Judge Dixon said Barlow’s conduct amounted to ‘cowardly, sexist bullying’ carried out in a bid to ‘interfere with Ms Soubry’s stance on Brexit’

He continued: “The effect of this sentence, albeit not the intention, prohibits you from having a say in the political process. You will not be allowed to vote in the forthcoming election, and thereby expressing your voice about Brexit as your vote may have indicated.”

Barlow pleaded guilty to the offence of conveying a threatening message at an earlier hearing held at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court.

In addition to Barlow’s 12-month sentence, Judge Dixon also granted a restraining order which prevents Barlow from contacting Ms Soubry or from going near her constituency address in Nottingham.

Speaking after the hearing, Chief Crown Prosecutor Gerry Wareham said: "This letter contained a sickening and ominous threat to Ms Soubry, with an explicit reference to the murder of Jo Cox MP in 2016.

"Ms Soubry and her staff in the constituency office understandably found the message deeply disturbing and highly offensive.

"What is more attacks such as this on our elected representatives are attacks on democracy and perpetrators will be prosecuted.

"I hope the sentence Barlow received today is of some comfort to Ms Soubry and her colleagues and a deterrent to anyone else contemplating such despicable actions against a parliamentary representative or candidate."