A stalker who ran a five-year campaign against a circuit judge through a blog where he posted ‘highly offensive personal attacks’ has been jailed for eight years.
Javed Sheikh, 43, was convicted of aggravated stalking following a two-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.
In January 2010 Sheikh, who had worked at a hospital until the previous year, was referred to the independent safeguarding authority, later the disclosure and barring service, where he was added to barred lists.
His Honour Judge Simon Oliver and two lay members heard Sheikh’s appeal of the decision in private in the Upper Tribunal. The appeal was dismissed and permission to appeal was refused. Sheikh made a complaint about Oliver which was also dismissed.
Then, according to sentencing remarks by Mr Justice Saini, Sheikh ’resolved to attack Judge Oliver through an online hate campaign. So began your five-year campaign of harassment and stalking using the blog.’
The judge said his sentencing remarks could not ‘capture the horrendous nature of what you said in the blog about Judge Oliver and his family, or the nature of the personal threats they faced as a result of your conduct’.
While judges ’have to have a broad back’ there ‘can be no justification for the offensive personal comments and personal photographs, and statements about his [family]’.
Sheikh’s aim, the judge said, was to ‘encourage disgruntled litigants who had appeared before Judge Oliver to join your army of hate’.
The judge acknowledged that threats of sexual violence, physical attacks on Oliver’s home and ‘clear monitoring of his movements’ on the blog all had the purpose to ‘encourage physical confrontation or attacks’.
He said: ‘All of your allegations about misconduct and crimes by Judge Oliver were totally false. No attempt was made to justify them at trial. Online stalkers like you have the ability to recruit an army of followers whose conduct massively expands the effect of your stalking. The multiplication effect of your stalking by online media meant in many respects your conduct was more serious than that of a conventional stalker.
‘It is significant that you continued to maintain and develop the blog, even during and after civil proceedings had been launched against you and even after you were found to be responsible for the blog and were injuncted from any further publication by the High Court in late 2019.’
The judge found Sheikh’s stalking caused Oliver to make ‘considerable changes to his lifestyle’ including checking outside his home each time he entered or left, family-wide withdrawal from all social media, changes to his working life, and feeling unable to engage with family activities.
He said judges in the family jurisdiction are ‘particularly vulnerable’ to such threats, adding: ‘The offending plainly had an adverse impact on the administration of justice. Judge Oliver’s evidence was to the effect that he felt that, on occasion, confidence in him (particularly from self-represented litigants) had been adversely affected.’
Sentencing Sheikh to eight years in prison, the judge said: ‘I am satisfied that a level of imprisonment of this period is a necessary and proportionate response both to the interference of the blog and your dissemination of it with Judge Oliver’s private life and the need to protect the authority and impartiality of the judiciary within the framework of Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
‘Our democratic society requires that judicial office holders be open to criticism of their judicial conduct and decisions. Your acts however went far beyond any legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression.’
Sheikh was also made subject to an indefinite restraining order which prohibits him from following or contacting Oliver and his family. He must also not approach, within 100 metres, First Avenue House, in High Holborn, London, unless for a ‘legitimate purpose’ and only with an order of a judge of the Family Division.