After a Deputy was sent a Facebook message last week saying ‘please die of Covid’ and the issue was highlighted in the JEP, several online commentators echoed the condemnation of unacceptable online behaviour. Deputy Inna Gardiner received the message, which also branded her ‘a filthy NIMBY’, in the wake of a parish assembly discussing the Island’s new hospital.
Among those calling for an end to such abuse were children’s commissioner Deborah McMillan, Citizens Advice chief executive Malcolm Ferey and former ministers Philip Ozouf and Jim Perchard.
One of the many politicians to support Deputy Gardiner, Senator Sam Mézec, has criticised the Attorney General for failing to take action in the face of ‘overtly threatening’ messages.
A spokesman for the Law Officers Department said what the Senator was describing did not amount to a criminal offence, drawing a sharp response from the Reform Jersey leader.
‘In short, the Attorney General is wrong,’ said Senator Mézec. ‘I was directly contacted by someone on social media who told me to “be very careful of ur next steps” and further down the thread said “im wanting to butt the c***”.’
Senator Mézec alleged that the man had later made an admission to the police. The politician said that he had subsequently been on the receiving end of a ‘menacing’ comment when the pair bumped into each other on the street, but that no prosecution resulted.
‘We have laws already in place to deal with this behaviour, but the prosecuting authority is choosing not to use them,’ he said.
‘I will be writing to the Attorney General to tell him that his refusal to deal with cases like this is basically a green light for these people to continue to behave in this way.’
Newly elected Education Minister Jeremy Maçon was another to come to Deputy Gardiner’s defence.
‘I think the message sent to Deputy Gardiner is completely unacceptable – wishing someone dead is disgraceful,’ he said. ‘As I’ve said publicly many times before, States Members are human beings and we are not immune to abuse or threats, which will affect Members’ mental health and wellbeing.
‘I think our community needs to ask itself, if they want more and diverse candidates to stand, then does this type of bullying behaviour put candidates off from standing?
‘My view is that it does, particularly women and younger people.
‘While it is perfectly acceptable to challenge States Members on their political views or policies it isn’t acceptable when it comes to personal comments, bullying or threats.’