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Grandfather who threatened to strangle Keir Starmer and shoot James Cleverly avoids jail

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A grandfather who threatened to strangle Sir Keir Starmer and shoot James Cleverly in sweary emails has narrowly avoided jail.

Retired welder Berthold Dwinger sent the ‘malicious’ and ‘threatening’ emails to the offices of both prominent MPs to voice his concerns on current affairs such as the conflict in Gaza.

The 74-year-old, from Littleport in Cambridgeshire, told Home Secretary Mr Cleverly he was ‘lucky’ we didn’t have guns in the UK because he’d ‘shoot’ him and ‘every single one of you front bench b******s’.

Just a month later, frustrated at the opposition leader’s position on the conflict in Gaza, the father-of-three sent an expletive-riddled email all in capitals to Sir Keir, telling him his party were ‘no better than the Tories‘ and that they were ‘two cheeks of the same a**e’.

When later questioned by police about his comments, he told officers he stood by his words that he would strangle Sir Keir – despite dismissing the threatening nature of his email by referring to Starmer as a ‘poor boy’.

Dwinger was handed a four-month suspended prison sentence suspended for two years.

Retired welder Berthold Dwinger (pictured), from Littleport in Cambridgeshire, sent both politicians expletive-filled emails

Retired welder Berthold Dwinger (pictured), from Littleport in Cambridgeshire, sent both politicians expletive-filled emails

The 74-year-old stood by his words that he would strangle Sir Keir Starmer when asked by police officers

The 74-year-old stood by his words that he would strangle Sir Keir Starmer when asked by police officers

He was also slapped with a restraining order not to contact either Sir Keir or Mr Cleverly for two years.

In a statement to the court, Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle decried the emails as putting ‘democracy itself at risk’ in potentially scaring MPs into leaving their posts.

He also referred to the deaths of both MP Jo Cox in 2016 and Sir David Amess in 2021, adding that MPs should be able to perform their duties in ‘an environment of safety’.

Dwinger had previously admitted two charges contrary to the 2003 Communications Act.

Prosecutor Thomas Murphy told the sentencing hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that Dwinger had sent an email to the office of James Cleverly MP on December 9 with a subject line reading: ‘You are lacking moral compass’.

The email, focusing on no political subject in particular, called Cleverly ‘incompetent’ and told him he needed ‘removing from any kind of power’.

Dwinger also said: ‘Lucky we don’t have guns or I would shoot every single one of you front bench b******s. You are toast* You ugly p***k. B. Dwinger.’

Another email sent to the offices of Sir Keir on January 13, which was all in caps and had the subject line ‘Zionism’, began: ‘You despicable sack of s****’

The email, which also accused Starmer of ‘continuing to support a genocide in Gaza’ and called him ‘delusional’ and ‘corrupt’, added: ‘I could strangle you with my bare hands. 

‘You b******s are no better than the Tories – two cheeks of the same a**e. You are the dregs of society. C***. B. Dwinger.’

Though neither Cleverly nor Starmer gave impact statements to the court, members of their office management who read the emails rated them as ‘nine-out-of-ten’ and ‘ten-out-of-ten’ respectively in terms of offensiveness.

Mr Murphy called the emails ‘menacing’ and ‘sinister’, adding that when arrested for the emails, he told officers he stood by his threatening words.

Dwinger told Home Secretary Mr Cleverly he was 'lucky' we didn't have guns in the UK as he'd 'shoot' him

Dwinger told Home Secretary Mr Cleverly he was ‘lucky’ we didn’t have guns in the UK as he’d ‘shoot’ him

The prosecutor told the court: ‘Dwinger said: “I send more messages to people. Sunak and the lot”.

‘When asked about saying to Starmer “I would strangle [him] with bare hands”, the defendant stated: “Oh yeah, I would. I told them what I thought of them”.

‘When asked if he thought his words caused Starmer alarm or distress, he replied: “Poor boy”. The Crown would argue that behaviour caused fear of violence.’

Defending Dwinger, his lawyer Ms Hadid told the court her client has three children and five grandchildren and moved to the UK from his native Germany when he was 22 years old.

She said of the emails: ‘It was an angry outburst of his views at the time and he had no intention to cause physical harm. He’s a 74-year-old man who comes from a different generation. It’s an out-of-character incident.’

But District Judge Daniel Sternberg retorted: ‘The statement of Sir Lindsay Hoyle reminds me that since 2016, two current or former Members of Parliament have been murdered: Jo Cox and Sir David Amess. That is also part of the context in this sentencing.’

DJ Sternberg handed Dwinger a four-month prison term, but suspended it for two years, taking into account the defendant’s age and the fact he cares for a friend.

He said: ‘Sir Lindsay Hoyle, in his statement, says that democracy itself is at risk if MPs don’t stand for reelection or change how they act in Parliament.

‘They should be able to perform their democratic tasks in an environment of safety. There’s no doubt that your emails were threatening, malicious and grossly offensive.’

As well as his suspended sentence, DJ Sternberg ordered Dwinger to pay £239 in costs and victim surcharge and complete a hundred hours of unpaid work.



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