A “threatening” man has been given a hospital order after telling a camera crew he would “shoot everyone at the BBC” because they were “linked to satanic child abuse”.
Russell Rawlingson, 52, launched a tirade of abuse at Sima Kotecha (pictured) and her colleagues on 10 May last year shortly before she was due to broadcast live from Leicester city centre following a speech from the Prime Minister on the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The defendant filmed himself telling Kotecha to “go back where you came from”, which prosecutors claimed was because the reporter “looked different”.
He was arrested the day after by police but when cautioned said: “I don’t understand what’s racist about it.”
Recorder William Harbage QC accepted Rawlingson’s remarks to the BBC crew were not racist, but described them as “very offensive and unpleasant”.
Rawlingson was sent to a medium secure hospital under section 37 of the Mental Health Act for harassing the journalist, as well as separate matters of having a bladed article in a public place, assaulting an emergency worker, and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear or provoke violence.
Leicester Crown Court heard he suffers from bipolar affective disorder which requires daily medication.
On Friday, the recorder told the defendant: “These are serious matters that, given your record, might ordinarily lead to an extensive period of imprisonment.
“The offence in relation to the BBC crew, suffice to say you used very offensive and unpleasant remarks.
“I’m satisfied they were not racist but they were offensive and left the BBC crew very shaken.
“If you were released into the community there’s every likelihood you would offend against members of the public and emergency workers.”
Rawlingson, formerly of Glenfield Road, Leicester, was originally charged with causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, but pleaded guilty to a lesser non-racially aggravated version of the offence in April.
Opening the case against him, prosecutor Sarah Phelan said: “Before the broadcast began the defendant began abusing the team.
“He began to shout ‘coronavirus is fake news’ and ‘the BBC is fake and putting out fake news’.
“He also began to call the crew paedophiles and suggest that he was going to shoot people, saying he would shoot everyone in the BBC as they were linked to satanic child abuse.”
Shortly after the incident, Kotecha tweeted: “Apologies to our guests who we had to send home without putting on air after myself and team were subjected to racist and abusive behaviour – sad obstruction of reporting of a national crisis. Yes I’m furious.”
Phelan continued: “He shouted ‘you shouldn’t be here, you support paedophiles, go back to where you came from’, and this appeared to be aimed at Sima Kotecha.
“The defendant began to move his abuse on – suggesting that ‘you need to go home, you should not be in Leicester, you should go home and get out of Leicester”.
“At one point he shouted ‘f*** off back where you came from’ – this was aimed at Miss Sima Kotecha on the basis that she looked different from the defendant.
“She recalls the defendant saying ‘you don’t belong here, I’m from the UK. I’m from here. You don’t know what you are doing’.
“She felt harassed by the defendant.
“The incident was sustained and caused alarm and distress to multiple persons present.”
Speaking after Rawlingson’s guilty pleas, a BBC News spokesperson said: “It’s completely unacceptable that our journalists should suffer abuse for doing their jobs.
“The BBC stands by our brave and talented correspondent Sima Kotecha, her colleagues and her guest.”