I discussed a few points with the detective constable who visited:
- I pointed out that I have not been asked by anybody, not the school, not Mrs Gumley Mason, not even the police on their previous visit, to delete any comments that had already been published at the time of the first police visit.
- I asked whether he was requiring me to take down any existing comments, or was indicating that I would be committing an offence if I did not. He made it clear that he was not saying that leaving the old comments up was an offence.
- I pointed out that there had been no attempt by Mrs Gumley Mason, the school, the trustees, governors or their solicitors to contact me to complain about any aspect of the blog. Their first action had been to go to the police.
- I asked if the police had asked Mrs Gumley Mason whether she had made any attempt to contact me to ask me to stop whatever was supposedly concerning her. It appears that the police had not asked that question.
- At least some of the comments specifically mentioned in the prevention of harassment letter are points which have been supported by a finding of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, and as such are entirely justifiable as fair comment on matters of fact.
- Mrs Gumley Mason is a headteacher. The comments about which she was complaining are no worse than one might hear in any playground in the country. For her to feel harassed by them is not credible.
- Before she became a headteacher, she was a senior journalist and broadcaster, two professions notorious behind the scenes for for the use of language far worse than anything she is complaining of. Moreover in her present and previous careers she is a public figure. For her to be alarmed or distressed about the comments on the blog is not credible.
- There is strong evidence that Mrs Gumley Mason has made anonymous comments to the blog. She is hardly in a position to complain of harassment from a blog to which she herself has contributed.
- I have already written a letter to the chairman of Trustees (and he has received it by recorded delivery) in which I have stated that I will not publish any more name-calling comments, and that if Mrs Gumley Mason or the school is concerned about any other comments, they are requested to contact me without delay. I said that I would unhesitatingly remove any new comment that was genuinely abusive.
- In the light of all this, there is reason to think that both the original complaint and its repetition are motivated by Mrs Gumley Mason's private agenda, and that in essence the police are being used by her to try and intimidate me.
I provided a copy of my letter to Mr. Murphy as evidence of my position. By the time the policeman left, he seemed almost apologetic at having called. He said that he had no wish for the police to get involved in a private dispute between Mrs Gumley Mason and me, and he promised that the police would have a further word with her on the subject.
The fact is that the offence of harassment only exists when the alleged perpetrator engages in a course of action which he either knows or should reasonably have known would cause alarm and distress.
Until the police visited the first time, I could not reasonably have known, since there was no reason to think the comments could plausibly have caused alarm and distress, and after the first police visit I wrote to the chairman of trustees stating that no further name-calling comments would be published and inviting Mrs Gumley Mason or the school to contact me if they have any further concerns. Since it is the name-calling specifically which was the subject of the complaint, and not any other aspect of the blog, there is no justification for any further complaint.
I also mentioned in passing that I had made a formal written complaint to the Metropolitan Police about one of the officers who had visited the first time. She had refused to identify herself when I requested her name and number, saying instead that her name was on the Prevention of Harassment letter. However, when I took a detailed look at the letter after she had gone, her name and rank were an illegible scrawl, and her warrant number, home station and contact telephone number were absent, even though the letter clearly indicated that all should be stated. The policeman made no comment.