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Conservative Party Threatens Byline Times with ‘Ludicrous’ £30,000 Copyright Claim Over Images Exposing Candidate’s Links to Convicted Drug Dealer

Jonathan Gullis refused to comment on our story while Stoke on Trent Conservative Federation threaten punitive legal case

Jonathan Gullis (far right) celebrates with Yassar Hussain (top left) and Conservative former leader of Stoke Council, Abi Brown (bottom left), at the 2021 Moorcroft by-election, which was later investigated by police following allegations of voter fraud. (Source: Stoke Sentinel)

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The Conservative branch representing the governing party’s deputy chairman has threatened legal action against Byline Times over alleged copyright infringement, demanding £10,000 for the use of publicly-shared images.

The photos were used in an article that revealed party deputy chairman and Stoke on Trent candidate Jonathan Gullis, and his association with convicted drug dealer  Yasser Hussain, once jailed for being the ringleader of a heroin gang.

In an email sent on June 6, 2024, Dean Richardson, Chairman of the City of Stoke Conservatives, claimed that the two images used in the Byline Times article, published last Thursday, belonged to the local party and were taken from their Facebook page without permission.

To whom it may concern,

Please find attached an invoice for payment.

The invoice is for use of images belonging to Stoke-on-Trent Conservatives, taken from our Facebook page and used in the below article, published online and on social media on 30th May 2024.

Payment details can be found within the attached invoice.

Failure to complete payment will result in legal action being taken in regards this matter.

​Kind Regards,

Dean Richardson, Chairman

City of Stoke-on-Trent Conservative Federation

The article in question features the images which show that the Conservative deputy party chairman had campaigned with the convicted drug dealer on more than one occasion, contrary to his Jonathan Gullis’ claims.

Richardson demanded a sum of £5000 per image plus an extra £2 for every view. Out of transparency, Byline Times can confirm the article has been viewed 5,000 times adding another £20,000 to the total and bringing their full claim for ‘Stoke-on-Trent Conservatives Fighting Fund’ up to £30,000.

Byline Times had contacted Gullis several times for comment on this matter of significant public interest but received no response. The outlet had also sought comment on a £10,000 donation made by JCB to Stoke Conservatives and Gullis’ silence on the closure of a JCB factory in his constituency.


Conservative Deputy Chair Jonathan Gullis Took £10,000 From JCB – Then Stayed Silent Over Company’s job Loss Announcement

The MP for Stoke-on-Trent North didn’t comment on potential job cuts at the digger giant but called an “urgent” meeting with the Business Secretary over the closure of Johnson Tiles amid claims his “silence was bought”

A spokesman for Gullis – who has previously described drug dealers as “savages” – told LBC last month that Yasser Hussain was merely a member of the public that the member for Stoke-on-Trent North had met at “events with the local Muslim community”, while Tory insiders stressed Hussain wasn’t a member of the party.

But a Byline Times investigation then uncovered a number of further photographs featuring Hussain – a former trainee solicitor jailed for eight years in 2006 after being caught with 4 kilos of heroin with an estimated street value of £400,000 – taken at Conservative Party events between 2018 and 2023 which suggest the convicted drug dealer is in fact a long-standing and prominent Tory activist. 

One legal expert consulted by Byline Times suggested that the Conservative Party’s copyright demands were “ludicrous”. Even if the local party can establish ownership of the photos, the £10,000 demand is far above what is usually granted for copyright breaches, with similar images typically commanding around £100 each.

Byline Times needs your help to investigate disinformation and electoral exclusion as we head towards the 2024 General Election.

We’re asking for your help to keep track of dodgy campaigning this election, so if you spot anything that bears investigation, please email us at

Our newspaper maintains that the use of the images falls under fair usage for the purpose of reporting on current events that are of public interest. The amount claimed is vastly disproportionate to the typical licensing fees for such images.

Byline Times has written back to Dean Richardson asking him to prove that Stoke on Trent Conservative Association legally owns the copyright to these campaign images. However, we remain committed to reporting on this story and others that hold those in power accountable and we will be publishing another article about Jonathan Gullis shortly.

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