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‘Dinosaur’ journalist harassed female colleagues in ‘relentless’ campaign of misogyny

FTJwm90XoAAsISoA self-confessed “dinosaur” journalist has been hit with a suspended jail term for harassing two female colleagues and two other women in a “relentless” campaign of misogyny and threats which left the victims feeling “utterly humiliated.”

Robert Sutcliffe, who bragged to a probation officer that he was “the most famous man in Huddersfield”, waged the unrelenting campaign against two former colleagues at the Huddersfield Examiner and Yorkshire Live.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that Sutcliffe, pictured, had “belittled, humiliated” and insulted the two women in Twitter posts and text messages and unfoundedly questioned their professionalism and ability as journalists.

Prosecutor Charles MaCrae said the 58-year-old hack, who had worked for various newspapers in Yorkshire over a long and distinguished career, had also sent menacing text messages to two women he knew from a pub in Huddersfield called the Plumbers Arms.

Sutcliffe, of Edgerton Road, Huddersfield, had previously admitted five counts of harassment against the four women. He appeared for sentence today when the victims’ impact statements were read out in court.

Of the two former colleagues, one was initially his understudy at Yorkshire Live while the other was his immediate superior.

Charles Macrae, prosecuting, said the harassment offences, between June and November last year, had had the most damaging and demoralising effect on the more junior of the two colleagues, who joined the newsroom in October 2022 for her first stint in journalism.

The two now-former colleagues developed a close but platonic bond after Sutcliffe initially “took her under his wing” and mentored her.

However, the friendship began to deteriorate when he began texting her out of work. The harassing texts and social-media posts became so frequent and concerning that by October 2023 she had filed a complaint against him.

She said that Sutcliffe was initially “lovely, happy to help me”, and although she thought he was eccentric they initially “got on well”.

However, in June last year she received an email from him “criticising her work” and telling her that “if you want to be taken seriously (you need) to stop being so precious” and told her to “sort your life out”.

The young colleague “felt bullied” but “dismissed it at the time”.

A few months later, Sutcliffe was suspended from his job following an allegation of gross misconduct after he posted critical comments about his editor Wayne Ankers and another colleague regarding the publication of an inquest report.

Following his suspension, Sutcliffe told HoldtheFrontPage he was “sorry for my intemperate remarks”, adding: “I’ve been a dinosaur for a long time and something daft like this was bound to happen at some point.”

During the same month of his suspension, Sutcliffe sent more than 20 messages a day to his former colleague.

She said: “I started to become intimidated and scared and unable to stand up for myself, especially after seeing how he treated my colleagues. I got messages throughout the day asking to meet up, and if I could not, he became hostile.”

In one text, after she declined to meet him for a social night, he told her: “I just want to know, do you want to be a full-time member of the club or a mummy? We’d all have so much more respect for you.”

Days later, she received another message in which he attached a picture of himself “from waist-high, of his chest and face”.

Although the picture wasn’t of a sexual nature, she felt it was “inappropriate” and was shocked to receive it.

On September 5, he turned up at her home “unannounced” with flowers, a bottle of wine and “lollies for (her) children”. She turned him away and he left.

He followed this up with another flurry of messages, urging her to meet up with him for a “sneaky glass of wine upstairs”.

This made her feel “extremely uncomfortable” because she didn’t want a romantic relationship with Sutcliffe. She blocked his number on social media but still the menacing messages arrived in her inbox.

Sutcliffe then posted an image of her face on his Twitter account after she asked him not to contact her.

She had to take time off work due to the stress that Sutcliffe’s behaviour had caused and had to attend meetings remotely because she was afraid to “go into town” and risk bumping into him.

The veteran reporter – who began his career editing a weekly newspaper in Doncaster in 1989 and had stints at the Barnsley Chronicle and Bradford Telegraph & Argus before joining the Examiner in 2012 – ultimately resigned from his job at Yorkshire Live before the conclusion of the investigation into his tweets.

In the meantime, he was brought in for police questioning about his harassment of his younger colleague during which he cited “issues with his mental health”.

He was given a police caution and bailed on condition that he didn’t contact his ex-colleague but “within a matter of hours” he started messaging her again and mentioned her in “multiple tweets”.

Mr Macrae said: “That left her utterly distressed and frightened to leave her home in case he was outside. She ended up installing CCTV for her own safety due to his unpredictable behaviour.”

Sutcliffe, who claimed initially that he had been taken into custody on “trumped-up charges”, faced a second allegation of harassing his immediate boss, who had been made aware of the first victim’s complaint.

After being “bombarded” with derogatory messages and tweets following the fall-out from Sutcliffe’s inquest article, she too decided to press charges after Sutcliffe “began to take a dislike to (her) for reasons unknown”.

Mr Macrae said: “He sent numerous messages to her at work…saying she didn’t know what she was talking about and saying the editor’s boots were too big to fill.

“He also suggested she had been over-promoted and (that) he was going to tweet about her to expose her.”

The second victim said Sutcliffe had been a “very well-renowned reporter in Huddersfield” but that all his tweets about her had “misogynistic” overtones.

She said at the time that she had “barely slept and eaten” following his poisonous tweets. She was “constantly refreshing Twitter (to) make sure he hadn’t posted anything else about me”.

Sutcliffe’s behaviour wasn’t just confined to his workplace and professional relationships. In November, he began bombarding two women he knew from the Plumbers Arms with menacing text messages.

The women, who had worked at the pub and knew Sutcliffe because he was a regular at licensed premises in Huddersfield, were subjected to dire subliminal threats.

One of the named victims had previously got his telephone number after Sutcliffe told her he would “help her get an apprenticeship”.

Mr Macrae told the court that on November 10, he left her a message saying, “your brains are literally in your txxxx” and he “alluded to the fact that he could harm her by saying he could have people in a car boot within half an hour, anywhere in the world.”

“She thought he was making a threat to have her kidnapped,” he added.

The terrified woman said she always thought Sutcliffe was a “strange individual” but had never thought him capable of such vile behaviour. She told him he was an “awful man”.

The second woman, who was also in the pub that day, was bombarded with similar messages from Sutcliffe in the same five-hour period.

The women said that Sutcliffe was a “heavy drinker, drinking three to four pints an hour”. Mr Macrae said that misogyny ran through Sutcliffe’s targeting of all four victims.

In her victim impact statement, Sutliffe’s younger colleague, who has been using a safety alarm since his harassment campaign, said she was left feeling “vulnerable, violated and living in fear”.

“I felt incredibly anxious and afraid every day,” she added.

“Mr Sutcliffe would switch from being pleasant to unpleasant (which was) hugely detrimental to my mental health. I feared the potential repercussions if I attempted to cut off contact.

“When I finally got the courage to stand up to Robert, he made multiple social-media comments about me, making me feel completely humiliated. I have had to stop doing things I enjoy (such as) going to the gym and I will be having counselling.”

The second colleague described Sutcliffe’s online campaign as “relentless, humiliating and unpredictable, misogynistic.”

She said it had all come about because of a “simple, routine request” but that this “minor disagreement had resulted in such extreme behaviour from him”.

Sutcliffe had tried to make her feel “out of her depth” and she said his behaviour was “basically revenge by posting pictures on Twitter to humiliate and demean her to his hundreds of followers”.

In his toxic tweets, Sutcliffe had “belittled my job title, something I worked 17 years to achieve”. When she discovered there were three other victims it sent “chills down her spine”.

Sutcliffe’s solicitor Ben Sayers, in mitigation, said the disgraced journalist’s “identity and self-esteem was tied up in (his job)” and that his suspension, after a 34-year career working for major regional titles, was a “huge trigger point for him and precipitated the worst behaviour”.

“He has been dogged by mental illness, including depression, throughout his life,” added Mr Sayers.

He said that Sutcliffe “appears to have lost everything” and had recently lost his new job as general manager at Showtime, a bar in Huddersfield, after his employer learned of the criminal proceedings.

District judge Charlotte Holland told Sutcliffe that the harassment campaign “you subjected these poor women to” could only be met by a custodial sentence. It had had a profound effect on all four victims who found Sutcliffe’s behaviour “extremely upsetting and distressing”.

She noted a probation officer’s report which said that Sutcliffe had a sense of entitlement and that he had even told the officer that he was “the most famous man in Huddersfield”.

However, the judge said that because the report concluded that Sutcliffe could be rehabilitated, she could “just” step back from a period of imprisonment.

Sutcliffe was given a 24-week jail sentence, but this was suspended for 18 months. He was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and complete 25 rehabilitation-activity days.

He was made to pay £85 costs a £145 victim surcharge. These financial penalties would come out of his benefits.

In addition, Ms Holland made a three-year restraining order banning Sutcliffe from contacting the victims, making references to them on social media and going to their homes or workplace.