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Offence of Sending Letters etc. with Intent to Cause Distress or Anxiety

Part of Orders of the Day — Malicious Communications Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:45 am on 8th July 1988.

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Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay 10:45 am, 8th July 1988

I support the good, common-sense points made by the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson). I, too, believe that in this instance justice should be tempered with mercy. The levels of fine originally laid down in the Bill probably make more sense than allowing magistrates to whack on very heavy fines on the ground that it is the rich we want to catch. It is unfortunate how often the nasty, envious side of human nature comes out when we discuss such matters, not least in some of the rather malicious remarks of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who constantly pillories a gentleman in the City who cannot come to the House to defend himself but has to put up with such maliciousness and cannot take the hon. Gentleman to court for it.

There are many instances of malicious communications. Last week, I received quite a number of letters which most people would regard as offensive, mainly from people who could not get tickets for Wimbledon. I believe that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) wrote such a letter to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. That communication, which travelled from this place by Her Majesty's letter post, asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to carry out certain acts in relation to me and my status in the Conservative party which I considered to be a threat. Although I think that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong and that his action was ungentlemanly, I should not like to see him taken to court and fined at level 4 or 5. If he had gone over the top, I would be happy for him to be fined at level 3, which about fits in with the amount of money that a Member of Parliament can afford.