An MP reported to social services as an unfit mother over her views is seeking to change the law, so no-one else has to go through such “distress”.
Stella Creasy said being a victim of an online troll’s “campaign of harassment” left her family with a record that cannot be removed.
“I sat in the court clutching myself to stop myself from shaking because I was thinking about what this man was doing, and thinking about my family,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
The MP for Walthamstow in east London, has now tabled an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill to remove “malicious” reports from people’s records after the “distressing” experience.
Philip Stacey, 52, from Wigston, Leicestershire, told local police Ms Creasy’s children should be taken into care due to her “extreme views” and also contacted the Labour Party and the BBC.
“That harassment continues to have an impact because that record exists,” the MP said. Woman’s Hour
“We need a way of removing a malicious complaint so that it stops being a form of harassment to continually target people in this way.”
Waltham Forest Council launched an investigation as it was legally required to do following a referral from Leicestershire Police.
But despite Ms Creasy being cleared, the council said it was legally prevented from removing the man’s complaint from its record.
“As a consequence of his behaviour, my children have a social services record,” she said.
“That harassment continues to have an impact because that record exists and my local authority tell me that they can’t delete it.
“We know in a lot of cases, victims of stalking and harassment often are subject to malicious complaints and we also know there’s an increasing trend, particularly of women in the public eye, being reported to social services.”
Women’s Aid’s head of policy, Lucy Hadley said the survivors of violence and abuse they support are “routinely” subjected to “false allegations… made to discredit and undermine women”.
“There remain significant gaps in the skills and ability of the police and other statutory agencies to recognise this and respond effectively,” she said.
“It is essential that false and malicious allegations are responded to as the forms of abuse they are, not used to discredit and silence women in public life.”
Stacey was convicted at Leicester Magistrates’ Court on 30 November of harassing Ms Creasy and her family.
The MP said while a shadow minister, she worked on the same stalking and harassment legislation the man was prosecuted with.
She added: “Because I’d had the privilege of working with a range of experts on stalking and harassment, I knew it was much more serious than the initial police response which was, ‘well, he’s entitled to his views, and your views are extreme because after all, you are a feminist’.
“But I also knew that because he’d continued on even when he’d been told to stop, that was a breach of the law.”
Leicestershire Police said its first response to Ms Creasy was referred to its Professional Standards Department and “advice and reflective learning” was provided to officers.
A spokesperson added the force takes “any report of harassment extremely seriously”.
‘Campaign of harassment’
She added: “The fact there isn’t a way of removing those records feeds into something everybody knows, which is there’s no smoke without fire.
“So even though people might dismiss those reports, eventually they start thinking, ‘well maybe there is something here’, all because somebody didn’t like the views that I stand for.”
Ms Creasy said her amendment would provide a process whereby a malicious report could be removed from someone’s record.
The MP added she hopes more women will want to enter politics if the amendment is passed.
“[Targeting] someone’s family is beyond the pale,” Ms Creasy said.
“We probably need legislation now to address the fact that people’s family members, their staff, are being targeted as a way not to promote a debate but to shut one down.
“It’s not free speech if people are being intimidated or harassed in this way.”