Suspended prison sentence for science teacher who harassed vicar (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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Suspended prison sentence for science teacher who harassed Hampton Wick vicar
A retired science teacher convicted of harassing a vicar could be jailed if he continues to breach his restraining order.
Iain Burgess repeatedly sent insulting letters to Reverend Graham Singh and was found guilty of harassment by Richmond Magistrates’ Court in October 2011.
Burgess was banned, by restraining order, from going within 100 yards of St John the Baptist Church, Hampton Wick, or from distributing literature which included references to Mr Singh.
The 76-year-old, of Cedars Road, Hampton Wick, was found guilty of breaching the order six times; the first occasion just five days after the order was made.
He appeared at Kingston Crown Court for sentencing on Tuesday, December 10, and told the Richmond and Twickenham Times he would go on hunger strike if he received a prison sentence.
Defending, Nathaniel Wade said prison was no deterrent to Burgess, who wrote the letters because he felt it was his responsibility as secretary of Hampton Wick Church Action Group to let parishioners know what was going on.
Judge Judith Coello said: “That [jail] is precisely where he will end up. I am 100 per cent sure that he will find it a great shock. He will come into contact with the most unsavoury characters if he goes to prison as you well know and it will be most unpleasant for him.
“I have got no intention of sending him to prison today because that’s further down the line because that what we will come to.
“If he feels he has to carry out these duties as part of this organisation he is putting himself at risk.”
Judge Coello said Burgess had been “effectively slinging mud at the Reverend Singh” because the letters accused him of perjury and were sent to police officers and members of the parish and community.
Mr Singh came to the church in 2010 and had a disagreement with Burgess but has since moved to live in Canada, where he was born.
Judge Coello warned Burgess that a breach of a restraining order carried a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and urged him to put the issues with Mr Singh to one side.
She handed him a sentence of 20 weeks’ imprisonment to run concurrently for each charge, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to pay a £80 victim surcharge.
She said: “I would have thought that merits overall an appropriate form of punishment for all you did.
“That does mean Mr Burgess that you have got to be extremely careful over the next 18 months.
“Life is too short to be engaged in this sort of behaviour. You of all people as a Christian should be aware of that.”
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