An aristocrat has been jailed for 12 weeks after offering money to anyone who would run over and kill Gina Miller, the campaigner whose court fight forced the government to consult parliament before triggering the Brexit process.
Rhodri Philipps, the fourth Viscount St Davids, was convicted on Tuesday of two counts of sending malicious communications. He wrote on Facebook that he would put up “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first-generation immigrant”, soon after she won her high court case.
The judge told Philipps he had directed “extreme racial abuse” towards Miller and caused her distress. Sitting at Westminster magistrates court on Thursday, senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot said Philipps had attempted to justify his actions by claiming that public figures were fair game.
“Why public figures deserve this warped behaviour is beyond me,” she told him.
Philipps had also “proudly” told the judge his family’s motto was “love of country”. Instead, she told him, he had attacked people who disagreed with him and who had recently arrived in the UK. “You showed this hatred by publicly directing abuse at others, which is a criminal offence in this multicultural society we are fortunate to live in.”
Philipps, who is 50 and from the Knightsbridge area of central London, appeared in the dock wearing a pink shirt and green trousers and a waistcoat for his sentencing hearing.
In a statement read to the court, the prosecutor said Miller had “been the subject of a vicious hate campaign and vilified on social media outlets”. Philip Stott said she had been the victim of “racial and offensive personal slurs”, adding that she felt scared as a result.
The judge expressed doubt when, in mitigation, Philipps’ lawyer Sabrina Felix told the court of her client’s remorse. “It is quite a change in two days, isn’t it? Two days ago, he was explaining to me his racist views, as one might say,” the judge said.
Philipps paced back and forth in the dock and, invited to address the judge himself, said her “critique” of him at an earlier hearing had “struck a chord”. He had believed in his defence but had come to recognise that “much more is expected of me and so it should be”.
He told the judge: “When you looked at me and said ‘ashamed’, your intonation was like a streak of lightning.”
The judge accepted his belated remorse for the harm he had caused was genuine, but did not accept that he had changed his views on race: “You have had an epiphany. This was a sudden conversion after many months when you have expressed racist views.”
Philipps had described Miller as a “boat jumper”, adding: “If this is what we should expect from immigrants, send them back to their stinking jungles.”
He was also convicted over comments he made online in response to a news article about a man called Arnold Sube, who was reported to have turned down a five-bedroom council house for his family of eight children. “I will open the bidding. 2,000 in cash for the first person to carve Arnold Sube into pieces. Piece of shit,” he wrote.
Philipps accepted writing the posts but insisted they were neither publicly visible, nor menacing. He told the court: “My own mother is an immigrant from the very same continent [as Miller].”
Miller had said she found the posts “genuinely shocking” and said she felt “violated” by them. The campaigner said she was “very scared for the safety of herself and her family”.
A five-year restraining order was also placed against Philipps in order to protect Miller, Sube and Matthew Steeples, who informed Miller about the racist material.
Stott said at an earlier hearing: “In addition to finding it offensive, racist and hateful, she [Miller] was extremely concerned that someone would threaten to have her run over for a bounty.
“She took the threat seriously, and it contributed to her employing professional security for her protection.”
Philipps was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for his abuse of Miller and four to run concurrently for the abuse of Sube. The judge ordered the recently bankrupt viscount to pay Miller £500 in compensation, noting that he was of limited means. She gave him six months to pay up and warned she would send the bailiffs to his home if he did not comply. A £115 surcharge was imposed and Philipps was ordered to pay costs of £250.