A MAN has been formally cleared of a charge of malicious communication relating to one of his local county councillors.

But Christopher Ryan is still facing an allegation of harassment of the Durham County Council member for Murton, Julie Griffiths.

Appearing at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court today (Wednesday June 23), the 40-year-old defendant, of Station Estate North, Murton, denied malicious communication.

He was accused of sending a message or messages by letter or electronic communication which were either indecent or grossly offensive, and that the information contained was known or believed to be false, for the purposes of causing the recipient distress or anxiety.

The alleged offence spanned the period from February 9 to March 24 this year.

Following the defendant’s not guilty plea, prosecution counsel Matthew Hopkins said: “On review, although a number of messages were sent, amounting to persistence, they do not reach the threshold of a malicious communication and that’s the position that’s been reached.”

He, therefore, offered ‘no evidence’ on the charge, and, so, Judge Ray Singh recorded a formal ‘not guilty’ verdict.

The defendant also faces a case of harassment, which relates to an alleged course of conduct said to amount to harassment of Cllr Griffiths by contacting her repeatedly by electronic means, over the same period as the other count.

Mr Hopkins said as that was not an indictable charge it would have to go back to the magistrates’ court to be heard,

Nick Cartmell, for Mr Ryan, said the defendant was, “simply a constituent lobbying his local elected official, persistently.”

But Judge Singh replied: “Calling someone an ignorant s*d and an idiot is hardly simple lobbying.

Read more: Man jailed for intimidating course of behaviour against former partner

Judge Singh said the defendant would remain subject to the existing bail conditions which prohibit him from contacting Cllr Griffiths or going to the street where she lives.

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