Woman jailed for death threats to Bradford MP Naz Shah

The Guardian - Fri Jan 14 18:46

A woman whose death threats led to an MP’s children fleeing their home in the middle of the night, and an innocent family being arrested at gunpoint, has been jailed for three and a half years.

Bradford West MP, Naz Shah, has described how she rang 999 about “an immediate firearms threat” in a disguised email sent by Sundas Alam in April last year that threatened her with a “bullet in her head”.

A judge at York crown court heard how Alam, 30, used cloned email addresses, which led to a wholly innocent couple and another relative being dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night by armed police, and questioned for 20 hours by officers responding to the Labour MP’s emergency call.

Alam, of Bradford, West Yorkshire, was jailed for 18 months for sending malicious communications and a further two years for perverting the course of justice.

Sentencing her on Friday, Judge Sean Morris referenced the killings of MPs Jo Cox and Sir David Amess.

Judge Morris said: “There has to be an element of deterrent, especially in the light of recent tragic events. Members of parliament dedicate their lives to the service of their constituents and their country. They should not have to put up with threats.”

He told Alam: “The communications you had with the member of parliament were disgraceful, terrifying and shameful. You made serious threats towards her of the most vile and worrying kind.”

He said: “She had to be prepared to get out of the house with her family quickly.”

The judge said the involvement of the innocent family was one of the most serious cases of perverting the course of justice he had come across in years.

He said: “Because you had threatened the MP with a bullet in her head, the police rightly had to take that extremely seriously.

“And thus it was that armed police charged into the complainants’ house in the dead of night, throwing people to the floor and arresting them, traumatising an elderly relative.”

The judge described how the incident was preceded by a long series of events involving one of the men wrongly arrested, who was a manager at a workplace from which Alam was sacked.

Alam changed her pleas part way through a trial last year, and Judge Morris said he was sure this was always the defendant’s plan, to make sure her former manager had to go through the ordeal of giving evidence before she halted the proceedings.

In a statement provided to the court, that man said his “reputation and character has been destroyed” and described how his neighbours assumed the family were murderers, drug dealers or terrorists after the police raid.

He said his family has suffered severe trauma due to the actions of Alam and “nothing can be the same again”.

Shah’s victim personal statement was not read to the court.

Speaking after Alam pleaded guilty last year, Shah said she had had many death threats before, but this was the first time she had rung 999 because “I really genuinely felt it was an immediate firearms threat”.

The MP told the PA news agency in October: “It was the length of time between one email and the other.

“I was thinking ‘this is somebody stewing, this is somebody stewing for so many hours’ and actually saying ‘how do you want this, rifle to your head or through the window’.”

She said she thought: “Are you telling me you’re outside my house?”

“At the time it was really, really real,” Shah said.

She added: “It’s really close to home. We’ve lost two colleagues in the last five years.”

The MP said she stayed in her home while she waited for the police, but made sure her children were taken to a safe place.

She said: “I’ve got a thick skin and I just carry on with it but my kids and my family do worry. That causes more concern.”

In August 2019, Stewart Hanson, 57, of The Woodlands, Tranmere, was jailed for 12 weeks after sending offensive emails to Shah.