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Man found guilty of stalking Cheshire MP

|News, Cyber / online crime

A man has been found guilty of stalking a Cheshire MP.

Stephen Cowell, 56, stalked Michael Amesbury, the Labour MP for Weaver Vale, on four occasions in 2022. The stalking, which amounted to harassment, happened on 9 June, 16 June and 27 July in Runcorn Shopping City around the MP’s constituency office and culminated in a series of events on 3 August in Frodsham.

On 9 June, he was seen loitering around the MP’s office, staring in through the glass, shortly after he had asked security staff in the Shopping City about the level of the security guards and cameras there.

Mr Amesbury left the office around 4.30pm for an appointment and walked to his car. He was approached by Cowell who asked him: ‘How are you going to solve the housing crisis?’.

He persisted in his questions and followed the MP to his car. Mr Amesbury told Cowell he needed to go to his appointment, but Cowell carried on.

The MP got into his car but Cowell put his hand on the door so he couldn’t close it. Mr Amesbury, who, at that time was Labour’s Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning, gave Cowell his business card and told him to contact him through normal channels about housing issues. As Cowell let go of the door to take the card, Mr Amesbury closed it and drove off.

The MP found the behaviour odd and heard about the questions he had asked the shopping centre staff about security so he informed the staff at his office.

On 16 June 2022, Mr Amesbury’s constituency staff spotted Cowell loitering around the office again. As one of them picked up the phone, Cowell walked away, but loitered again on a nearby bench, apparently looking through a pile of papers.

On 27 July 2022 he was seen loitering in the same area by security guards at Runcorn shopping city, sitting on the same bench. Later on security staff saw him in another area of the shopping centre, and as they recognised him, he turned and walked away from them.

On 3 August, Cowell was seen in the area where the MP lives, watching, loitering around and waiting for Mr Amesbury, at Costa Coffee, in Frodsham. As the MP left the coffee shop to return to his car, Cowell followed him and confronted, him a second time, leaning into Mr Amesbury’s car as he was attempting to leave. The MP said the conversation was about housing again and Cowell showed racist thinking and was animated.

The MP spoke to Cowell forcefully when he refused to move away and he then saw Cowell walk to his own car and drive off in the direction of Tarporley. He found this whole incident unnerving and reported this to the police. Later that day, the police spotted Cowell’s car at a farm shop in Stretton and he was arrested.

He was told he was being arrested on suspicion of stalking Mr Amesbury and was cautioned. He replied “There will be CCTV of it. He threatened me, I didn’t threaten him’. He was shown CCTV of the various incidents and he agreed it was him but didn’t concede that it amounted to harassment.

He said he wanted to talk to his MP about housing as he needed to move from his home in Runcorn where he had lived for more than 20 years. He said he hadn’t used the details on Mr Amesbury’s business card to pursue the issue as he 'had things on my plate.' He denied any sinister intent towards the MP and said he’d ‘rather not see him ever again’.

He was charged with stalking but pleaded not guilty. However, at a trial at Warrington Magistrates' Court on Friday 21 July 2023 he was found guilty. He is due to be sentenced on 18 August 2023.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Simon Green, of CPS Mersey Cheshire, said: “The Crown Prosecution Service’s case was that CCTV of Mr Cowell’s behaviour on these occasions and his actions and demeanour to Mr Amesbury amounted to stalking.

“He could have raised any concerns regarding his situation in a straightforward manner by using the contact details on the MP’s business card he had been given. But he didn’t do any of this. His behaviour became increasingly odd and intimidating, to the point the MP felt compelled to call the police.

“Members of Parliament perform a vital public service representing the needs and concerns of their constituents. It is vital that they feel safe in doing this and that the actions of those who try and intimidate them are met with the force of the law where necessary.”

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