Robert Mansfield, left, has been sentenced by Margate magistrates over “graphic and disturbing” threats he made to Leo Whitlock, the former editor of a group of weekly newspapers in Kent, over a story in which he himself was named as the victim of a stabbing.
Mansfield drove to the office of Thanet Extra, one of the KM Group titles run by Leo, and told three members of staff he would “stab him in the stomach” – as well as tellingo one of them he would crash his car into the office.
Leo, who had refused Mansfield’s demands to remove the story in question from the Kent Online website, had to close the company’s Deal office as a result of the threat.
Magistrates heard how the father-of-two, who is a full-time carer for his autistic friend, flew into a rage after Leo, now head of communications at Canterbury City Council, declined the demands.
John Bishop, prosecuting, told the court: “He said ‘I will stab Leo and do to him what was done to me’. He also said he would drive to the Whitstable office.”
In a statement read out by Mr Bishop, Leo said 34-year-old Mansfield had intentionally made the staff feel vulnerable and scared.
Leo said: “It caused an enormous amount of disruption. He threatened to come to find me as I was sitting at my desk in Deal and we had to close the Deal office. We had to take sensible precautions to make sure I was safe and to keep my family safe.
“I had to call my wife to tell her what was happening. His actions were distressing for a large number of people. Mansfield very obviously wanted us to feel threatened.”
The story Mansfield wanted removed from Kent Online referred to an aggravated burglary in which he was stabbed in the face and, during the following court case, accusations were made by his attackers that he was a drug dealer.
Ian Bond, defending, said: “There was no evidence of this and it was completely denied by Robert Mansfield. At the time, he was involved with social services in trying to have his five-year-old child returned home to him. In his mind, the report may have been seen by them.”
Mr Bond said after the incidents, on 18 October last year, Mansfield offered to write a letter of apology to Mr Whitlock.
Mansfield was given a restraining order banning him from going near or making any contact with Leo, the three members of staff or any of the KM Group offices, for the next six months, but was warned he faces jail if he breaches this.
He was also ordered to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work over the next year.
Magistrate Peter Gill said: “What you have to realise is that the KM acted lawfully, they are allowed to report anything they hear in a public court. You can’t go around harassing them afterwards.”