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Police Failings Allow Anti-Vax Stalkers to Target Vulnerable Victims for Over a Year

Stalking is often misidentified as a lower level offence. Byline Times speaks to victims who have yet to receive a proper police response

Photo: GmbH & Co. KG/ Alamy

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Last year an estimated 1.8 million people were victims of stalking, yet only 5% of reports of stalking to police resulted in a charge. The issue has become so prevalent that the Suzy Lamplugh Trust recently submitted a “super complaint” to the police on behalf of the National Stalking Consortium.

The complaint notes that “It is common for [stalking] to be investigated as a ‘lower-level’ offence, such as malicious communications… or to be misidentified as harassment, thus setting a course for an incorrect pathway through the criminal justice system”.

Byline Times can now reveal the impact it has had on stalking victims across the country.

In June this year Catherine Kube, a small business owner from Staffordshire, received a direct message on Facebook from a stranger known only as ‘Jake’. Telling Kube that he was building “a series of websites that feature all the information I have gathered about you, your daughter and your extended family”, Jake wrote that the sites would offer cash prizes to anyone who could get pictures of her at work, or of themselves inside her home.

Taking issue with Kube’s involvement in the anti-misinformation community, Jake advised that his hate campaign could only be stopped if she deleted her Twitter accounts, adding that “if your family gets hurt or robbed it’s only your own fault”.


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Having previously encountered a number of anti-vax trolls, Kube dismissed the threat. Days later, via a pseudonymous Twitter account, Jake posted Kube’s home address followed by pictures of her husband and child, using ableist slurs to imply the child’s autism was the result of being vaccinated. When Kube reported the abuse to Twitter, she was told he had broken no rules.

Concerned for the safety of herself and her family, she reported the incidents to Staffordshire police, who informed her that no crime had been committed. An email from police, seen by Byline Times, said that “it is very hard with these jobs as we have very little control over the platforms that are used”. In the same email, officers suggested that a solution would be for Kube to “remove yourself from the platform” and that she should “be careful who [she] accepted [on social media]”. 

Jake’s abuse is ongoing and he has now begun attacking anyone who supports Kube online, posting images of their children and contacting their families to claim that they are “Nazi shills for the 77th Division” (a branch of the army dedicated to information warfare). Kube told Byline Times that his behaviour had seriously impacted her mental health, leaving her constantly looking over her shoulder. When she informed police of this, they advised her to see her doctor or pay for a solicitor to issue the troll with a cease and desist letter.

Other members of the misinformation community that we spoke to have been subjected to similar abuse.

In response to our request for comment, Staffordshire Police told Byline Times: “We received a report of online harassment on 3 July relating to abusive messages online between a woman and an unknown man. We reviewed the information available and advised the woman to contact the relevant social media platform to report the messages. When reviewing similar cases, officers look for instances involving domestic-related threats and elements of hate crime before launching a police investigation. The woman was updated and advised that the matter should be investigated through the relevant social media platform.” 

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Northumberland-based film-maker James Hodcroft has been dealing with a stalker for over a year. In Spring 2022, Hodcroft commented on a Twitter post made by a member of the influential anti-vax HART Group, disagreeing with a statement they had made. Almost immediately, Hodcroft found himself on the receiving end of a troll using the name Steven James Black, who identified himself as a friend of the HART group member before posting a picture of Hodcroft’s house on Twitter with a map link to his street. 

As a father with two young children, Hodcroft was enraged that this person would put his family at risk but did his best to ignore the threat. Seven days later, now using the picture of Hodcroft’s home as a banner image on his Twitter profile, Black also posted about Hodcroft on his Gettr account, saying “one wrong move and it’s the end of the line for you my pedigree chum”. Truly fearing for the safety of his family, Hodcroft posted an angry retort on Twitter. Since then, Black has relentlessly posted about Hodcroft on multiple platforms, opening numerous accounts to circumnavigate his regular blocks and suspensions and encouraging other trolls to follow suit.

When it became apparent that social media platforms were incapable of stopping the abuse, Hodcroft reported Black to Northumbria police. To his horror, they stated that nothing Black had done amounted to a crime, blamed Hodcroft’s ADHD diagnosis for the situation and advised him to “doxx [Black] back”. When he refused to accept this solution, police then claimed that they could not take action because Black lived in Lancashire and advised him to contact Greater Manchester Police. Having done so, Hodcroft was told that, because he had retaliated and did not know Black’s full address, there was nothing they could do either.


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Doxxing is recognised as a crime in the UK and (depending on the circumstances) falls under the Harassment Act, Malicious Communications Act or Computer Misuse Act. The idea that retaliation and neurodiversity somehow makes a victim less worthy of assistance is known as the “Ideal Victim Hierarchy”, whereby society maintains an idea of what a victim ‘should’ be and any deviation leads to reduced sympathy and a feeling that they deserve whatever befalls them. 

In Hodcroft’s case, the unwillingness of police to recognise doxxing as a crime, has allowed Black to continue defaming him and casting aspersions on his character. Byline Times has seen evidence that this has led to other trolls contacting members of Hodcrofts extended family and making social media posts claiming (falsely) that Hodcroft is a paedophile; a situation which has been incredibly distressing to all involved. 

A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “We can confirm in September and October 2022, we received two reports of online harassment. “As these were alleged to have been carried out by someone living in the Greater Manchester area, in line with standard practice, the reports were handed to officers there.” 

Greater Manchester 

Black has also extended his attacks to Hodcroft’s online friends including Kube and Nat (name changed to protect her identity), who have received months of abuse. Posting across multiple platforms to criticise her pro-vaccine stance and support for Hodcroft, Black has attempted to justify his abuse by claiming that Nat “spread lies about Covid and thus deserves [it]”. Blocked on all platforms, Black still managed to find posts Nat had made about personal health issues. Reposting them with his own vile, sexual commentary he has made multiple references to Nat’s genitalia, commenting that “she needs to get some jizz up her fanny. She can always go for artificial insemination”. 

Reporting this to Greater Manchester Police, Nat faced the same roadblocks as Hodcroft and was told that no crimes or sexual harassment had been committed because “[Black] is responding to posts that you have made”. Unsatisfied with their response, Nat continued to monitor his abuse, submitting a second report which eventually led to police issuing Black (whose real surname – Bennett- we uncovered via OSINT) with a caution. Unfortunately this has not stopped his online onslaught and police have told Nat she will have to go through the entire reporting process again before they can investigate. 

When we contacted Greater Manchester Police for comment, they told us “We do have some guidance to share, but as you’ve named a person directly, we can’t reply to it confirming identity if they’ve haven’t [sic] been charged. With the crime reference numbers given it shows GMP have investigated the incidents.” 

A recent report by Amnesty International notes that one in five women have suffered sexual harassment online, with 55% suffering anxiety, stress or panic attacks as a result. A report last year by Victims Commissioner Vera Baird echoed this, noting that “The actual experience of reporting seemed more stressful and re-traumatising than the abuse itself.” 

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