Antisemitism activists hail ‘game-changing’ unmasking, prosecuting of anonymous troll
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Antisemitism activists hail ‘game-changing’ unmasking, prosecuting of anonymous troll

Nicholas Nelson, 32, was charged with racially aggravated harassment without violence under Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 for sending antisemitic messages to Jewish screenwriter Lee Kern, among others.

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Nicholas Nelson exits Westminster Magistrates' Court in London after his sentencing, Nelson pleaded guilty to three counts of sending communications of an offensive nature in 2018.
Nicholas Nelson exits Westminster Magistrates' Court in London after his sentencing, Nelson pleaded guilty to three counts of sending communications of an offensive nature in 2018.

Activists fighting Jew hatred through the courts have hailed a “game-changing” case in Peterborough where an anonymous online antisemitic troll was unmasked and prosecuted.

Nicholas Nelson, 32, was charged with racially aggravated harassment without violence under Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 for sending antisemitic messages to Jewish screenwriter Lee Kern, among others.

Nelson sent messages including emails from accounts that he “worked very hard to make anonymous”. Victims of anonymous abuse typically struggle to get court orders forcing internet service providers to disclose account holder details.

Mark Lewis, a lawyer for Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), used a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO), which allows information to be obtained from third parties who have become “mixed up” in wrongdoing. It helps victims investigate, pursue those responsible, and recover any losses.

CAA, which funded Kern’s legal action, said victims “usually have nowhere to go, because only rarely will the police track down the sender, and the cost of private action is usually beyond victims’ means”.

It said the case set a precedent and “enabled us to identify the anonymous troll by obtaining a special kind of court order which… has never before been used to unmask an anonymous abuser sending antisemitic messages”.

NPOs have been used successfully several times before, including by the former Bristol academic Professor David Miller, who accused Jewish students of being “pawns of Israel”. He was able to force the identification of an anonymous Twitter critic and pursue legal action against them.

Criminal proceedings were brought after CAA’s court order identified Nelson, resulting in a hearing at Peterborough Cathedral on Monday at which Nelson pleaded guilty – and not for the first time.

In 2018, he pleaded guilty to the same charge, got a 20-week suspended sentence for a year, and was ordered to complete 160 hours’ unpaid work, while in 2020, he pleaded guilty to three charges of sending communications of an offensive nature to two Labour MPs, one of whom is Jewish.

CAA investigations director Stephen Silverman said the Nelson case set “a game-changing precedent” and was “the most significant development in the legal fight against online hate in years”.

Kern said Nelson “believed he was able to make these attacks on Jews with impunity”, adding: “He was mistaken. Justice will now be served. Those who think they can attack Jews anonymously and get away with it should pay heed.”

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