AN “eccentric loner” who sent a letter “putting a price on the heads” of councillors has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

But a judge warned political blogger David Lindsay that if he breaches a criminal behaviour order imposed to prevent any repeat of his actions that he faces serving at least 16-months behind bars.

Lindsay posted the anonymous letter threatening 57 named Labour members of Durham County Council to the county’s then Chief Constable, Mike Barton, in February 2017.

Durham Crown Court, sitting at Newcastle, was told he was angry at the council’s ruling Labour group seeking to review the conditions of teaching assistants.

His own mother, at the time, was a teaching assistant.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said two of Lindsay’s fingerprints were found on the letter.

Mr Sabiston said the threat to the councillors and Labour candidates in the 2017 council election, caused unrest.

With a trial looming for sending malicious communication, the defendant arranged for a fellow blogger in the US to forward letters, including two to local clergy in Lanchester, purporting to threaten Lindsay’s own life.

Mr Sabiston said it had the desired effect of derailing Lindsay’s trial, but inquiries revealed he was also responsible for those letters, leading to a further charge of perverting the course of justice.

Despite his denials, Lindsay, 42, of Foxhills Crescent, Lanchester, was found guilty of both counts at trial in March.

Chris Morrison, in mitigation, told the sentencing hearing that despite the nature of the letters, Lindsay does not actually pose a threat and is in poor physical condition, with underlying health issues.

He added that there is a low risk of repeat offending.

Judge James Adkin, who described the offences as “bizarre”, said Lindsay was convicted on, “overwhelming evidence”.

He imposed a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 300 hours’ unpaid work and issued an indefinite criminal behaviour order forbidding him from communicating with the named councillors, witnesses and a US investigator in the case.

Lindsay, described by the judge as, “an eccentric loner”, is also prohibited from posting any anonymous communication on social media, or from using pseudonyms.

* In an emailed statement issued shortly after the hearing, attributed to David AS (Alexander Stephen are his middle names) Lindsay, he said once he is in a financial position to afford to do so, he plans to appeal his conviction, and that he is, "prepared to devote the rest of my life to the cause."

The statement also said it is "imperative" that Labour loses every seat in next year’s county council election, but that he will be unable to stand on health grounds and that he has already decided not to contest any future elections.

It added that until the beginning of the appeals process, "there will be no further comment from me either on my conviction or on my sentencing."