South Tyneside councillor accepts Facebook posts called political rival a 'witch' - but denies harassment

A South Tyneside councillor has accepted making Facebook posts that described a political rival as a ‘witch’.

By Kevin Clark
Monday, 16th May 2022, 5:29 pm
Updated Monday, 16th May 2022, 5:31 pm

But Independent councillor John Robertson told a court he made the posts about Fellgate Labour councillor Geraldine Kilgour because he was worried about protecting elderly residents.

Robertson, 55,of Witton Road, Hebburn, has denied a charge of harassment without violence and was appearing at Newcastle Magistrates Court on May 16.

Brian Payne, prosecuting, told the court: “This case revolves around two posts provided by Mr Robertson.”

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Councillor John Robertson.

He said the contents went ‘beyond that which is permissible, even in the modern society’ in terms of expressing political opinions.

The first described her as ‘the vile, sadistic, narcissistic Geraldine Kilgour’ and accused her of involvement in the bullying of a 75-year-old resident.

It also referred to video evidence of her ‘bullying the elderly and vulnerable’ and said South Tyneside Council’s safeguarding team had refused to investigate.

"This skitso (sic) should not be allowed anywhere near the elderly and vulnerable and I will not be silenced when these people needed protecting from this vile witch,” it read.

Former Independent councillor John Robertson outside South Tyneside Magistrates' Court at an earlier hearing.

Asked by Mr Payne how she felt about the language used, she replied: “It is disgusting, it is grossly offensive, it is harassing, it is bullying.”

The court heard the video referred to was one filmed covertly by Ms Kilgour’s estranged step-family, in which she was was seen to have an argument with her mother.

Asked by Mr Payne, “In the course of that, did you say things or do things that were inappropriate?”, she said: “I regret one sentence that I said to her. I said ‘I am ******** sick of the way you are treating me’.”

The second message urged people to keep sharing the video and said in the absence of any action, Robertson would be referring the matter to the Quality Care Commission and Adult Safeguarding Board.

Cllr Kilgour said she had not been subject to any action by either body.

She said Robertson knew the incident in the video had been referred to the authorities and no action taken.

“He had full knowledge investigations were carried out and no further action taken,” she said.

The 75-year-old mentioned in the first post was a resident who was served with an antisocial behaviour letter only to receive an apology from the council.

Jason Smith, for Robertson, suggested to Cllr Kilgour she had started the complaint procedure on behalf of the ex-husband of another ward councillor, she replied: “The process had been started a long time ago.”

Asked by Mr Smith whether she had used alternative Facebook accounts to post derogatory statements about Robertson, she denied it.

Cllr Kilgour’s daughter, Hannah King, said she had set up one Facebook account ‘from a safeguarding principle’ in order to monitor posts about her mother on Robertson’s Facebook page.

"The posts were harmful, they were abusive,” she said – but she denied that her mother had ever used the account herself.

Robertson told the court he was contacted by Cllr Kilgour’s family who had shown him the video. He said he took it to the council but senior councillors and officers declined to watch it.

Mr Smith produced a letter from the council, confirming the concerns had been raised and the authority was ‘not going to do anything about it’ – but Judge Gary Garland said the letter indicated the issue had been passed to police who carried out an investigation and Cllr Kilgour had been eliminated as a suspect.

Robertson said he remained concerned and posted the reference to the video online for safeguarding purposes, but hadn’t posted it himself or shared it with anyone.

He had not intended that Cllr Kilgour should see the posts.

“She was blocked from my wall, I was blocked from her wall,” he said.

"The only way she could see my posts was if she was posting from a fake profile.”

Asked by Mr Smith if he accepted his language had been ‘a bit robust’, he said: “I do. It was frustration that the establishment were not doing what they are paid to do.”