PF v Zackary Ramsay Welsh

At the Sheriff Court in Edinburgh today Sheriff Donald Corke sentenced Zackary Welsh to six months imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to leaving a threatening and abusive voicemail message for Lucy Frazer QC MP at her constituency office. On sentencing, Sheriff Corke made the following statement in court:

Zackary Welsh, you pled guilty on summary complaint at intermediate diet to a charge under s.38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, which relates to threatening or abusive behaviour.

You left a vile, vulgar and abusive voicemail message on the constituency telephone of Lucy Frazer QC, the Member of Parliament for South East Cambridgeshire. You made a threat to come down and cut her if she did not apologise for remarks she made about Scotland. This is a truly appalling act of intimidation, not least because of the tragic death of Jo Cox MP.

Whether you like it or not, you are not the voice of the people of Scotland. Whether you like it or not, MPs are entitled and required to speak as they see fit, without fear or favour. They are answerable to the Speaker, to the law where privilege does not apply, and to their constituents. You are perfectly entitled to comment, but in a lawful manner.

Particular difficulties are faced by women MPs, who are often subjected to misogynistic, sick and perverted abuse. This is an attempt by those without their talent or sense of public duty to demean and control them and ultimately exclude them from public service. The threats and abuse you indulged in would clearly be intensely distressing to your target, her staff, and her family.

I have taken into account the circumstances, your lack of previous record, the submissions made on your behalf and the Criminal Justice Social Work Report. Arguably you were fortunate this matter was prosecuted on summary complaint, where there is a 12-month sentencing limit. That decision is taken by the prosecution in Scotland, not the court.

Notwithstanding your lack of previous convictions, no method of dealing with you other than a custodial sentence is appropriate, given the gravity and nature of this offence. Any sentence other than custody would serve to diminish the gravity of this offence and encourage others to believe that they can behave in like manner without meaningful consequences. Alcohol is no excuse.

The starting point is 8 months custody, given your age and lack of previous record and the fact you have appeared only on summary complaint. Giving you credit for your early plea, the sentence is one of custody of 6 months, to run from today’s date.