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Poison emailer’s lies cost woman her job

Saturday August 27 2011



Poison pen letters used to be a staple of crime fiction. Hand-written but unsigned, they would circulate around a closed community such as a small village, spreading poisonous lies about some innocent person until the writer was unmasked by a clever amateur detective.

Usually the culprit was the vicar’s wife.

I thought that sort of thing had died out, both in fiction and, if it existed to any extent, in real life.

I forgot about the Internet. There you can be both anonymous and poisonous, and you don’t even have to pay postage. Claire Chirnside, 23, says she is the victim of a poison emailer, whose lies have already cost her her job.

Back in April, Claire was working as a temporary administrative assistant at a children’s centre in Wilmslow, Cheshire, when an email was sent to her managers claiming she was a con artist and had a criminal past.

The centre launched an internal investigation. Claire was subjected to an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check and asked to provide a credit report.

Nothing detrimental was found and she was cleared to continue work. When the temporary position ended, Claire returned to her native northeast with her fiance, Lee North, and they settled in Northumberland.

Within weeks, she had secured a permanent job at the Royal Institute of British Architects in Newcastle, where she was praised for her customer service skills.

But within two months, the cyber stalker traced her and fired off a vindictive email to her new employers. Claire protested her innocence and explained about the previous incident, but she was sacked anyway.

It happened just three weeks before her planned wedding. “Someone out there is stalking me and spreading these rumours and it’s devastating,” she said.

“For the rest of my life, I am going to wonder if people I work for will get an anonymous email and I will be investigated over and over again.”

Claire said she will appeal against the architects’ decision. “What do I say next time I go for a job? Whoever is doing this could make me unemployable.”

Police in Cheshire and Northumberland confirmed they are carrying out investigations into reports of the anonymous emails.

* * *

The prison population was growing by 100 a day last week as the courts continued to remand riot suspects in custody and to jail convicted thieves and looters.

Hundreds of them are young offenders and one judge expressed incredulity that many parents were not accompanying their children to court.

A girl of 14 was accused of going on a looting spree in north London, stealing clothes, CDs and perfume from three shops. Judge Elizabeth Roscoe asked: “Where is your mother? You are 14”. The defence barrister said both the girl’s parents worked. “But their daughter is in the dock,” said the judge.

After frantic phone calls, the mother appeared to take her home.

Wear a tag

The girl was ordered to observe a curfew and wear an electronic tag until her appearance at a youth court later this month. Criticism has come from the families of some accused and from human rights lawyers concerning the severity of riot sentences.

A young man is appealing against a sentence of four years for using Facebook to incite riot. He sent a message saying, Smash Down Northwich Town, though he said he had no intention of rioting.

A sentence of five months imposed on a mother of two for receiving a pair of stolen shorts was quashed.

* * *

The TV cameras showed Victoria White in a Liverpool hospital bed, her skin yellow, her belly swollen and her life hanging in the balance from alcohol-induced liver disease.

She began drinking as a teenager and before her most recent hospital admission she was downing a bottle of brandy a day.

Doctors on the BBC programme, Dying For A Drink, said Victoria’s case was not unusual, that a quarter of Britain drinks too much alcohol and that alcoholic liver disease among the under-30s has risen by half in the past 10 years.

Experts say the main causes of excessive drinking are low prices, wide availability and aggressive marketing.

Health experts are pressing for legislation to cut or control the price of alcohol and to limit “happy hours,” but the drinks industry wants only voluntary codes of practice.

The government has promised to release a new alcohol strategy report later this year.

* * *

A religious old lady returned from church to her retirement home one evening and was startled to find an intruder.

“Stop!” she called. “Acts 2.38” (Turn away from sin).

The robber froze on the spot and remained immobile, clearly terrified, while the old lady called the police.

Arresting the thief, the policeman asked; ‘“why did you just stand there? All she did was shout a Bible reference at you”.

“Bible reference?” said the robber. “She said she had an axe and two thirty-eights.”