Homophobic emails against Kerryn Phelps referred to counter-terrorism squad

Police escalate the emails containing homophobic slurs and naming her three children to the fixated persons unit

Homophobic emails directed against the independent MP for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, have been referred to the counter-terrorism squad after the latest round named Phelps’s children.

Phelps said she went to Kings Cross police station on Wednesday after the latest abusive emails began arriving in constituents’ mailboxes and her office received reports of them.

The emails contain homophobic slurs and name her three children. They criticise Phelps for being in a same-sex relationship and describe the idea of two mothers as “disgusting”.

Phelps said the New South Wales police “immediately saw the threat and escalated it to the counter-terrorism squad”. “They also referred the emails to the Fixated Persons Unit as by any measure this is a fixation,” she said.

Phelps has now documented 10 different emails that have been sent to voters in Wentworth. The matter was referred to the Australian federal police when they first started arriving in October 2018, before the byelection, but Phelps said despite more emails arriving, the AFP had terminated the investigation.

She said she had also contacted the prime minister’s office over the emails seeking more protection and help to trace them.

The emails all contain the same rambling syntax. They rant against the LGBTQI community and have also falsely claimed that Phelps has been disqualified from the election because she is Jewish and entitled to Israeli citizenship.

They also claim that Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate, will ban adoption by same-sex couples and will allow the use of the swastika “because he is of Indian background”. This is also false. Some urge a vote for Sharma.

Sharma said he was appalled by the emails and shared Phelps’s concerns. “I have engaged a team of cybersecurity experts to investigate these malicious emails, with a view to shutting this down,” he said.

“This team has succeeded in locating the servers which are hosting these emails, and in having them shut down. The perpetrator, who appears to be a single individual, has changed servers multiple times, usually signing up for free trials in order not to disclose payment and other identifying details,” he said.

Sharma said the team had identified a number of email addresses and phone numbers associated with the perpetrator, which should aid in their identification.

Phelps also told the Guardian that she and her partner, Jackie Stricker, had reported to police that they had been followed in recent days. Stricker has provided a description of the older man she believes followed her in Bondi Junction and on another occasion.

Meanwhile the temperature has risen in Warringah after GetUp accused the Liberal MP Tony Abbott’s office of using its rightwing media connections to push “baseless claims” against GetUp staff.

At issue are posters featuring Tony Abbott’s face and the words “CUNT”, “PELL” and “COAL” across his forehead. The posters appeared around the electorate in late April and did not carry any endorsement.

The Australian reported that Abbott’s office had provided Facebook photos to police of two GetUp staff which they claimed matched the images in CCTV footage released by NSW police on 2 May.

2GB’s Ray Hadley rang into two programs on his own radio station on Wednesday to raise questions about why the police hadn’t charged anyone.

“There’s a question for Mick Fuller the (NSW police) commissioner, now, I know it’s a very sensitive time, but why aren’t they charged?” he said.

“I mean the NSW government is obviously very sensitive to all of this, you know, they want to make sure that it’s done by police and not by them, or directions from them, but the government and the minister responsible, David Elliott, knows who they are…”

The GetUp national director, Paul Oosting, said this amounted to pressuring the police.

“GetUp can categorically say no staff were involved in the incident in any way. In fact one of the accused was interstate at the time.”

“I call on the police commissioner to reassure the public his officers are not being exploited for political purposes.”

The NSW police issued a statement saying: “The matter remains under investigation by New South Wales Police.”

While postering without endorsements may amount to a breach of the electoral laws , a ruling by the NSW district court last year in an appeal by activist Danny Lim, appeared to suggest the word “cunt” may no longer be offensive.

The judge, Andrew Scotting, noted the word was referenced in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was used regularly on television, and was less offensive in Australia than other English-speaking countries. Lim won the appeal.

Contributor

Anne Davies

The GuardianTramp

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