Pennsylvania Christian Right Activist Discusses Ukraine

The Reading Eagle (Pennsylvania) reports on address given by Samuel E. Rohrer, “president of both the American and Pennsylvania Pastors Networks” to members of the Berks County Patriots. Rohrer – a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – discussed his involvement with Ukraine:

Rohrer… spent two day in a hotel in Kiev in June leading a summit aimed at ensuring Christian beliefs and values are paramount in creating a new Ukraine.

The summit was attended by 85 Ukrainian pastors and 15 members of Ukraine’s parliament. The group crafted a list of recommendations that was passed along to the country’s president.

Rohrer and fellow American pastor David Barton, speaking through translators to the Ukrainians, shared lessons of America’s creation as an example of how to create a free nation based on biblical principals [sic].

This received some attention at the time. In June, Glenn Beck announced that Barton had been asked to advise “the main people in the government” in “a former Soviet state”; for some reason, Beck avoided saying which country (and even slipped into the plural), but it was always very likely to be Ukraine.

This was confirmed a few weeks later, when Barton discussed his visit to Ukraine on James Dobson’s radio show. Right Wing Watch noted at the time:

Since returning to America, Barton revealed that he has been contacted by several other members of the Ukrainian government, asking him to return and deliver his presentation to the entire parliament, as well as from government leaders in neighboring nations who want him to come and present his message there as well.

Meanwhile, Rohrer’s APN produced a press release:

Key leaders of the American Pastors Network… recently returned from an International Leadership Summit in Ukraine, working with and encouraging pastors and elected leaders there who are making a concerted effort to embrace American ideas to restore the country.

Earlier this spring, APN was invited to the summit by Presiding Bishop Valery Reshetinsky, who also serves as the Chairman of the Ukrainian Interchurch Council that represents 20 different evangelical denominations. Reshetinsky wrote that pastors and officials attending the summit were “excited about what the American Pastors Network can do to help our government and pastoral leaders at this time of great need in our nation. It is our hope… that Almighty God hears the prayers of His people in Ukraine and around the world and permits us to govern ourselves not in corruption but through biblical principles.”

…Gary Dull of Faith Baptist Church of Altoona, Pa., and Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network… also traveled to Ukraine for the summit and said the participation of pastors and political leaders at the summit truly shows their desire to build a nation and a government on biblical principles.

A few further details were provided by Emmanuil, a Ukrainian Christian TV station. Their report names two politicians who were involved: Alexander Bryhynets MP (var. Alexander Briginets) and Pavel Unguryan, who is an enthusiast for TBN. Another local speaker was Borys Oliynyk, a distinguished poet. There was also a TV report, with footage, from CNL News. The PPA placed a video Barton’s presentation on YouTube in September.

Also in September, Charisma had a follow-up:

Earlier this month APN unveiled its special “Ukraine Initiative: Out of the Ashes | Freedom Reborn” website at, a centralized place for Ukraine updates and ongoing projects. Key to APN’s current efforts is providing humanitarian aid, and APN’s International Projects Coordinator, pastor Dale Armstrong, has traveled to Ukraine numerous times over the past few months. After his time there, APN has committed to meeting some of the most immediate and crucial humanitarian needs, including water-purification tablets, QuikClot Bandages, which help stop bleeding quickly, and individual medical kits for soldiers.

Long-standing US evangelical interest in Ukraine (noted here by Bill Berkowitz) is one reason why US conservatives are currently split over the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with some admiring Putin’s family values authoritarianism.

Beck – who is particularly close to Barton – has recently come out swinging against the Putin regime, although with trademark incompetence:

Examples of Putin attempting to appeal to the Orthodox Church: Moscow State University received the largest scientific grant ever, $19 million, to fund a project called Noah’s Ark…

Beck is here referring to an ambitious plan to create a comprehensive DNA depository. As RT reported last month:

“I call the project ‘Noah’s Ark.’ It will involve the creation of a depository – a databank for the storing of every living thing on Earth, including not only living, but disappearing and extinct organisms. This is the challenge we have set for ourselves,” MSU rector Viktor Sadivnichy told journalists.

It’s clear that there is no religious element to the project, and that “Noah’s Ark” is simply a bit of shorthand.

Some Links of a Syriza “Adviser”

Radio Free Europe on Greece’s new government:

…recently leaked e-mails are revealing some of the extent and duration of Syriza’s ties with Kremlin-connected Eurasianist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin and Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, who is believed to have bankrolled much of the separatist movement in Ukraine.

…Several dozen of the e-mails reveal conversations between [Georgy] Gavrish [an official in Dugin’s Eurasia movement] and people inside Syriza, says Christo Grozev, a media investor and blogger specializing in information issues in eastern Europe.

…One of the people involved in the exchanges is Nicolas Laos, a Greek intellectual and Syriza adviser with business ties to Russia. He is a partner of the Russian corporate-security firm R-Tekhno.

In one leaked e-mail, Laos writes to Dugin, “I know very well how the enemy works, and, under your patronage, I can strike back effectively and hard.”

I previously blogged on Dugin here, on Malofeev here, and on the leaked emails here. And just a couple of days ago, I looked at Panos Kammenos, who heads Syriza’s right-wing coalition partner and who has been described by the Economist as wanting to be “Russia’s best friend in Greece”.

Of course, it’s impossible to judge how much influence should be read into the word “advisor”, and there’s not much evidence of a political presence. Laos is, however “Founder and President of the Kairological Society– Reality Restructuring Resources”, described as a “philosophical and policy-oriented think-tank, private exclusive membership club and consultancy organization”, and his publications include Kairological Economics: An Anthropocentric and Creative Theory of Political Economy and Management.

Further, he appears in a 2013 LarouchePAC article about a Greek anti-Euro movement (Drachma 5):

The initiator of the movement is Professor of Labor Economics Theodore Katsanevas, who was among the speakers at the Schiller Institute’s international conference, “The Last Chance for Humanity,” held April 13-14 in Frankfurt, Germany.

On May 7, the Greek national daily Hellada published a two-page article reporting on Katsanevas’s presentation to the conference, along with the entire conference resolution, and a photo of the professor in discussion with Lyndon LaRouche. On the second page is a Greek translation of Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche’s open letter calling on the U.S. Congress to pass HR 129, the bill to revive Glass-Steagall.

The author of the article, Nicolas Laos, has previously interviewed Zepp-LaRouche and former French Presidential candidate and longtime LaRouche ally in France, Jacques Cheminade. The fact that the article was published the day before the launching the new party, and that the author is a member of its organizing committee, indicates that the party is associating itself with the fight for a Glass-Steagall reform, as well as for dismantling the Eurozone.

I noted Kammenos’s links to the LaRouche movement in my previous post.

Like Dugin, Laos is also interested in more esoteric matters; the first result for Laos’s name on Google takes us to the website of White Crane Publishing, and to a page devoted to a book of his with the glorious title The Kairological Qabalah: Rediscovering Western Esotericism within Philosophy, Science and the Revolutionary Secrets of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism and the Illuminati. This is the sort of thing that the anti-Putin wing of the American Christian Right will seize on; Cliff Kincaid, for instance, has linked Dugin’s ideas to Aleister Crowley and the occult.

On Twitter, Grozev has also drawn attention to old registration details for a website that Laos used to own in 2009 and 2010. The site described itself as “The Official Website Of The Master-General Of The Masonic Society Of The Illuminati”, and it offered visitors the chance to join the “Societas Masonica Illuminatorum”. Here’s the pitch:

Be part of an Illuminati-Masonic organization that is rich in history and tradition and enjoy human networking. Membership in our Society is not incompatible with membership in other Masonic Bodies, provided our members never compromise our Illuminati principles. However, in the system of our Society’s degrees, one can find, among other things, the highest Masonic knowledge. Thus, our candidates need not be Masons.

Or men, presumably?

Inquirers were directed to a PO Box in Greece, or, alternatively, a business address in Pimlico, of all places. A bio-blurb under all this describes Laos as “the Master-General Ad Vitam (for life) of the Masonic Society of the Illuminati”, as well as the Director of the “Laboratum Literatorum Illuminatorum”. One couldn’t troll David Icke better if one tried.


For his research work in philosophy, religion and heraldic studies, he has been honoured with the title of Doctor of Divinity from the St Elias School of Orthodox Theology (USA) as well as with the title of Academician from the Norman Academy (Rome) and the International Academy of Saint George (Wyoming, USA). Additionally, he has been awarded with the titles of Knight and Chancellor of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem under the auspices of the United Grand Priories of the Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, and with other chivalric titles.

I previously looked at the world of “Chivalric Orders” here (and at Freemasonry here); for the most part, such groups are essentially harmless charitable clubs for people who like dressing flamboyantly.

However, although Orthodox Christianity tends to view Freemasonry with hostility, Laos is also the founder of the Sovereign Orthodox Christian Order of Saint Nikolaos of Myra, which takes a Duginist view:

Our chivalric organization is a traditionalist institution. Following the methodology of the Russian geopolitician and philosopher Alexander Dugin, we utilize the postmodernists’ criticism and deconstruction of modernity, but, instead of following the postmodernists to anti-foundationalist arguments, we make a great philosophical shift from post-modernity to pre-modernity, and, therefore, we rediscover pre-modern metaphysics through post-modernity.

The Founding Naval Patron is Captain First Rank (Ret.) Igor Kurdin, of the Russian Navy.

Some Brief Notes on Panos Kammenos

From the Guardian:

Syriza just missed out on the 151 MPs it needed to govern alone after Greece’s election, winning 149 seats with a 36.3% share of the vote. The party has formed a coalition government with Independent Greeks [var. Independent Hellenes – RB], who took 13 seats.

…The two parties have vastly diverging world views, standing well apart on issues such as illegal migration, Greece’s ever-fractious relationship with Nato rival Turkey, gay marriage and the role of the Greek Orthodox church.

Under their leader Panos Kammenos, who defected from the centre-right New Democracy party to form Anel at the height of the crisis in February 2012, the group has proved to be rabidly nationalistic in foreign affairs.

The election result has brought renewed interest in Kammenos, who was embroiled in controversy in December for opining that “Jews, along with Buddhists and Muslims ‘are not taxed’ in Greece”; however, the context seems to have been that he was accusing the Government of taxing the Orthodox Church unfairly, rather than suggesting that Jews have special treatment, or are tax-dodgers.

A few other points of interest:

1. In 2011, Kammenos described himself as an Old Calendrist (“??? ????? ??????????????????”), meaning that he belongs to a minority Orthodox group that rejects the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar. He made the comment during a radio interview as evidence that he does not have links with Ephraim, the controversial Abbot of the Vatopedi monastery of Mount Athos.

2. In 2012, he reportedly visited Mount Athos without obtaining permission first, travelling by private boat. According to the story, he visited the Esphigmenou Monastery, which sits apart from other monasteries on Athos; rebel monks occupy the site in opposition to “closer ties between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican.”

3. The 2012, the Economist described Kammenos as “hoping to replace Abbot Ephraim as Russia’s best friend in Greece.”

4. Kammenos also has links with Lyndon LaRouche; in December 2013 he travelled to Washington, where he “organized on Capitol Hill, alongside LaRouchePAC for the implementation of an international Glass-Steagall”. More recently, he spoke on “Greece and the Silk Road Economic Belt” at a conference organized by the Schiller Institute, which is part of LaRouche’s network. China’s “New Silk Road development program” seems to be of some special interest to LaRouche, and it is referenced in a LaRouchePac petition that accuses the US and Europe of supporting a “Nazi coup” in Ukraine and pursuing “suicidal geopolitical policies of the past which led to the two previous World Wars”.

As I noted a couple of days ago, LaRouchePac boasts that it so far has more than 200 “prominent signers”; Kammenos is among them, along with his “Diplomatic advisor” Lefteris Karayannis.

LaRouche Group Boasts of 200 “Prominent Signers” on Petition

From the website of – cough – Lyndon LaRouche:

As of January 19, 2015, the list of prominent signers to the Schiller Institute’s petition, “Why the US Must Join the BRICS” continues to expand, totaling now over 200, with the newest signers including author, activist and Princeton Professor, Dr. Cornel West and filmmaker Sean Stone from the United States. From Italy, Paolo Grimoldi, member of the Italian Parliament and founder of the Parliamentary group, “Friends of Putin,” [“Amici di Putin“; Grimoldi is with Lega Nord – RB] has added his name to the petition this week, along with a number of other prominent Italian, Swiss and German leaders.

The list includes other prominent politicians, businessman, academics, scientists and artists from 20 countries, who have all publicly endorsed a resolution calling on the U.S. and Europe to collaborate with the “BRICS” nations in the interest of peace and economic development. The resolution, sponsored by the Schiller Institute, was issued in response to the offer of China’s President Xi Jinping for the United States to join China’s New Silk Road development program and abandon the policies of confrontation with particularly Russia and China.

The statement itself then follows, under the headline “The U.S. and Europe Must Have the Courage to Reject Geopolitics and Collaborate with the BRICS”. It has garnered the “prominent” signatures despite the bad faith easily detectable in the headline and increasingly self-evident in the text itself: first, some bland comments about “cooperation” against ISIS, al-Qaeda and ebola; then, support for Russia’s opposition to “a Nazi coup” in Ukraine, and condemnation of  the US and Europe’s current “suicidal geopolitical policies of the past which led to the two previous World Wars”; and after this, some portentous waffle about “Johannes Kepler’s vision of mastery of the laws of the solar system for the benefit of man” and the Treaty of Westphalia.

And that’s before we get onto the document’s discreditable provenance: the Schiller Institute is famously run by LaRouche’s wife, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, and forms part of the wider LaRouche network. LaRouche’s conspiratorial anti-Semitism is notorious, and there’s still the outstanding matter of the mysterious death of Jeremy Duggan in 2003.

The petition was created following Zepp-LaRouche’s participation at “an international conference on the New Silk Road that was held Aug. 25 and 26 at Lanzhou University in Gansu province in northwest China”. Also present was Vladimir Yakunin, a member of Putin’s inner circle who has featured on this blog a number of times, and I speculated at the time that Yakunin may have facilitated her participation: she has spoken at events organized by Yakunin’s World Public Forum, and in 2009 LaRouchePac claimed that Yakunin had endorsed and promoted Lyndon LaRouche’s economic views.

The petition has also been promoted on the World Public Forum website, and its signers include Fred Dallmayr, the WPF’s ?o-Chair.

Dennis Rice and Police Intimidation: How Thames Valley Police Sought to Censor Criticism of a Tabloid Journalist

UPDATE (May 2016): The material below documents how the police mishandled a malicious complaint made against me by an online troll and harasser named Dennis Rice in 2014. This update is a summary of the main point.

Dennis Rice made his complaint after I posted Tweets and wrote blog entries documenting his anti-social online behaviour (he was behind the “@tabloidtroll”  account). Police sent me a “Police Information Notice” in September 2014, informing me that I would be investigated for alleged harassment if I again mentioned his name on social media. In other words, the notice came before any assessment had been made by police about whether his complaint had any merit. Rice hoped that police interest would also intimidate Peter Jukes from including an account in his book Beyond Contempt of how Rice had trolled him during the period of the phone-hacking trials.

I told police that I was confident that I had not broken any laws, and that therefore I would continue to mention Rice whenever his behaviour made it necessary for me to do so. A few weeks later I was asked to attend a voluntary interview under caution, with the threat of arrest if I declined to comply. At this interview, I was told that Rice had also received an anonymous threat by email (a short message that was read out to me at the interview).

That of course had nothing to do with me, and Rice has a pattern of claiming to have received threats after being challenged on social media. However, on legal advice, and for other sensible reasons set out below, I gave a “no comment” interview. The matter was dropped two days later, as there was no evidence against me. And the reason there was no evidence was because I had not committed any offence. Indeed, I had not acted in any way that could be regarded as unreasonable or anti-social.

Police “PINs” do not prove that harassment has taken place, or even that the police believe that harassment has taken place. Rice, who has held senior positions in tabloid journalism, pretends not to understand this, which is why he now writes that I have “a police warning for trolling and harassment”.

Rice’s actions are an example of a new trend in misusing the law for bullying purposes, with harassment allegations taking the place of libel action threats.

UPDATE 2: 17 May 2019: Rice has now been described by a high court judge (Mr Justice Mann) as having made “scurrilous accusations” in witness statements against a legal team currently involved in civil actions relating to phone hacking. The story has been written up by Press Gazette and by James Doleman at Byline TimesRice wanted his name removed from a statement made by the Claimants’ solicitor, Chris Hutchings, that linked him to unlawful information gathering based on his name appearing in the records of Steve Whittamore, a private investigator who pleaded guilty to breaching the Data Protection Act in 2005. Rice said that his full name did not appear alongside anything was illegal at the time, and that references to his surname elsewhere where either “not him” (according to the Press Gazette versionor “could not be proven to be him” (according to Byline Times). Hutchings’s lawyers said that they had been “bombarded” by correspondence from Rice.

The judge explained to Rice that courts do not have the power to order the redrafting of witness statements, and that Rice did not have standing as the court case was not about him. Rice is now facing legal costs of up to £64,000, which he says that he is unable to pay – Rice has referred to an article published by Byline Investigations in 2018 that referred to Hutchings’s statement (although Hutchings is not mentioned by name), and he says that this story is responsible for his inability to get clients in his new career as a therapist. The judge observed that Rice (in the words of Press Gazette) “was seeking a full-scale libel action”. This indeed seems to have been another example of Rice attempting to pursue a libel action by other means.

Dennis Rice and TabloidTroll
Rice makes a police complaint
Summoned to a police interview
Why I gave a “No comment” interview
My complaint to police
Rice makes further police threats
Appendix 1: Rice’s claim to have received a threatening email
Appendix 2: Rice responds to this post
Appendix 3: Claim of accessing bank statements


In early October 2014, I was summoned to a police interview a hundred miles from my home to answer a complaint by a tabloid journalist that he had been upset by true and relevant information that I had written about him on this blog and on Twitter. The journalist, Dennis Rice, was formerly Investigations Editor at the Mail on Sunday, and he wanted the police to stop me from discussing his behaviour, including details of how he had attempted to bully me via nasty, intrusive and untrue comments published under a sockpuppet name, as well as through unwanted phone calls to a member of my family (background here – I have described these as “crank calls”, although Rice prefers to claim that I have accused him of making “threatening” phone calls).

The investigation was dropped two days later, but the incident shows that – for whatever reason – Thames Valley Police were willing to indulge an aggressive journalist’s baseless demand for censorship on the mere assertion of “distress”, without any regard for context or even common sense.

First, some background.

Dennis Rice and TabloidTroll

There is now no argument over whether Dennis Rice ran the abusive and bullying @tabloidtroll Twitter account, despite his indignant and aggrieved denials (and his production of an “alibi tweet” which deflected a police investigation); a brief outline of some of the evidence can be seen here (and there is more that is not in the public domain). The Twitter account was supposedly created to offer media commentary by “a number of anonymous national newspaper journalists”, although it was actually a one-man platform from which Rice fired off vituperative Tweets against critics of tabloid standards such as Tom Watson MP and Richard Peppiatt, as well as other targets. I should emphasise that “TabloidTroll” wasn’t just a legitimate pseudonym: Rice used his @dennisricemedia account to endorse himself as @tabloidtroll, meaning it was a sockpuppet.

Rice has a grudge against me for agreeing with the evidence that he was TabloidTroll, and in 2013 he hid behind his sockpuppet to post a deeply unpleasant attack blog aimed not just at me, but at my loved ones (who have nothing to do with this blog). His post consisted of lies and distortions, and Rice even went so far as to publish a fake screenshot that purported to show that I use a dating site (I don’t, and never have). Given that Rice is a national journalist, most recently working for Channel 4’s Dispatches as a freelance producer, this reckless dishonesty is of some wider significance.

Another of Rice’s targets was the author Peter Jukes, who has written about Rice’s behaviour in his book Beyond Contempt. Rice – both under his own name and as TabloidTroll – affected to take offence at something that Peter had written, and he used this as an excuse to issue threats (both as Dennis Rice and as TabloidTroll) to investigate Peter’s finances and family. The threats were made in a gratuitously goading and unpleasant manner, which again reflects poorly on his professionalism: as @dennisricemedia, he mocked Peter as “wetting your pants when a real journalist turns his gaze on you”. Rice also formed an alliance with Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) and his associates in attempts to smear Peter, as Peter has now discussed here.

Rice upped his aggression against me throughout 2014, first of all by making two phone calls to a relative. The first call came when Rice learnt that I had appraised the editor of Independent Australia, David Donovan, of Rice’s antics; the second was after I “Favourited” a Tweet in which Owen Jones asked the question “@tabloidtroll @dennisricemedia why are you tweeting yourself?” Rice phoned my relative on a Saturday evening, told her I had “better be” at her address on a certain date, and then hung up. He then posted a similar message as @tabloidtroll, again indicating that he was the author. As a result of his, he was warned by police to desist – and @tabloidtroll went offline shortly afterwards.

From July, I began to discuss Rice’s behaviour publicly with other social media users who had been targeted by him for one reason or another. In particular, I noted the irony that a man who had made what can fairly be described as a crank call had also been the co-producer of a recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme (directed by Jim Nally for ITN Productions) about nuisance fundraising phone calls by charities. I also confirmed that a photo of Rice published some time ago on a Flikr page belonging to Press Gazette was actually the right person – Rice has made repeated threats to confront me and others, and so I had made some effort to find out what he looks like. Rice used to be on the National Executive Committee of the British Association of Journalists, and his image appears on an archived version of the BAJ website.

Rice quickly got in touch threatening a libel action, warning that he was “incurring substantial legal costs” that I would have to pay (incidentally, when someone goes on about costs as part of a legal threat, it’s a good indication of bad faith). However, this failed to materialise, and Rice then switched to “harassment”. He paid £105 to make a small claim in the civil courts for damages (again making a hollow boast about costs, this time from a non-existent “expert on data stalking – costs average around £750”), although the case was struck out without coming to court.

Rice also turned to the police. At the time, all I knew was that he had said that he found my comments online about him to be “harassment” – but I later discovered that he was also claiming to have received an anonymous threatening message. I don’t know where this message came from, but its arrival was obviously very helpful for Rice, given that his two civil threats had failed to materialize and he needed something with a bit of substance to take to the police.

Rice makes a police complaint

Rice lodged his complaint about me at High Wycombe. As result of this, I was issued with a Police Information Notice in mid-September, delivered by a local officer. It included the following:

Details of alleged conduct (specific actions that are cause for complaint):

Unwanted online contact through social media (mainly twitter and Bartholomew’s personal blogs) to Dennis RICE since August 2nd 2014. Contrary to the Protection from Harrasment [sic] Act.

Do not contact RICE directly, indirectly or name him on social media. lf this behaviour continues you will be liable for arrest and possible prosecution.

…Harassment is any behaviour, on at least two occasions, which causes alarm or distress to someone else.

This notice left out the important qualifier that in law “alarm or distress” needs to be balanced against whether the conduct complained about was reasonable, and it ignored clear and extensive CPS guidelines about handling complaints concerning social media. I have no idea whether Rice had truly felt “alarm or distress” at being held accountable for his lies and bullying, but if he did it was the natural and predictable consequence of his own behaviour.

The PIN was self-evidently censorship, but it was also a smear: shortly thereafter it was gleefully announced by various parties on Twitter that I had been given a “harassment warning”. Leading the mob was Nadine Dorries, who has a long history of making bogus “stalker” accusations to discourage criticism and scrutiny; she dislikes this site for her own reasons, and Rice is in private communication with her. She wrote:

This was shortly after she had made lurid and false allegations against a friend of mine in the Mail on Sunday, and the obvious implication was that this development was part of the same story [UPDATE: background here]; indeed, I suspect Rice and Dorries were coordinating their actions. However, she clarified what she meant shortly thereafter:

However, it was not in fact a case of “#netclosing” – a PIN is simply a notification that a complaint has been made [UPDATE: On this point in general, see here]. The false implication read into it by Rice and Dorries and their supporters was that the police had taken the view that I had broken the law, and that the PIN – which in fact has no legal status – was akin to a police caution. Behind the scenes, Rice was also boasting that he had been given an assurance that I would be “criminally charged” if I dared to mention him again, and that PINs would be issued to anyone else who dared bring up the subject of his behaviour.

Summoned to a police interview

I was now in a Kafkaesque situation: the PIN was being bandied about as evidence that I was a criminal, yet if I defended myself the police would take things further and that would confirm my guilt even more on the principle of “no smoke without fire”. I decided to take my chances. On Twitter, I briefly explained the actual context and waited for the police to call. I was duly asked to attend a supposedly “voluntary” interview under caution, although this was a peculiar use of the word “voluntary”: I was told that I would be arrested unless I complied. So, I agreed to attend – and as the day approached, goading anonymous messages about tourism in High Wycombe appeared on an anonymous troll account.

Ahead of the interview, I showed my writings to my legal representative, a specialist from Bindmans who confirmed what I knew already: that I had written nothing that broke any law. As a journalist, Rice is a public figure, and he had chosen to place himself into the centre of a public controversy. My representative also told me that in his opinion, I had been threatened with wrongful arrest.

Along with Rice’s complaints about my public writing, he also apparently claimed to have received a anonymous menacing email. That had nothing at all to do with me (I reject anything of that sort), and the police had no evidence to suggest otherwise (see Appendix 1 below for more on this). The whole case otherwise rested simply on how my public statements about Rice should be interpreted.

But the police had no more evidence to work with after my interview than they had before it. In making their decision to drop the matter, the police had only one extra piece of information to ponder: that I had access to top-quality legal representation.

The obvious question: if there was not enough evidence to proceed to prosecution, why had there been enough evidence to waste taxpayers’ money pursuing me in the first place?

My discussions of Rice’s behaviour are all still available online and can be assessed by anyone on their own merits. There is nothing that approaches “trolling” or “harassment”, and I continue to stand by every word as being truthful, relevant to the public interest,  necessary in order to protect my own reputation from falsehoods, and expressed in a way that is credible and reasonable. The police could have come to the same conclusion without needing to involve me at all.

I don’t know what went wrong here. In 2008, when the writer Oliver Kamm was the object of a police complaint from someone who objected a scathing book review, the matter was looked into, but dealt with proportionately via a phone call.

Is it simply the case that six years on, amidst media publicity about “trolling”, the police have lost all perspective when it comes to assessing the validity of any social media-related complaint? Or did Rice’s status as a national journalist afford him special consideration?

Why I gave a “No comment” interview

Since the above was first published, I have received several unsolicited emails from Dennis Rice, of a goading and unpleasant nature (see below for an example). Readers will notice in the above that I wrote that “the police had no more evidence to work with after my interview than they had before it”, which means of course that I gave a no comment interview, and Rice has drawn attention to this detail.

Replying “no comment” to false allegations, rather than making an indignant denial, obviously goes against the grain. When I was advised to say nothing by my lawyer, I immediately thought of Sheila Bowler, a woman who in the early 1990s had been convicted of murder after a relative with dementia had wandered away from Bowler’s parked car and drowned in a nearby river. The police supposed that Bowler had killed her relative for financial reasons, but because there was no actual evidence of this, she followed legal advice to say nothing during her initial police interview. Her conviction was eventually quashed on appeal, but her initial decision was portrayed in the media as having been strange and ill-advised. I now have a different perspective on this.

(Incidentally, Rice has an associate who gave “no comment” police interviews when under investigation in relation to phone hacking: Neil Wallis, the former Deputy Editor of the News of the World. Wallis was later acquitted, and I doubt Rice takes the view that his friend’s non-compliance with police demonstrates guilt.)

In fact, the legal strategy that my lawyer suggested made sense for several reasons.

(1) Building a case

My lawyer explained to me that the interview would simply be about building a case against me. I wanted to present counter-evidence that would demonstrate Rice’s true character and motivation, but I was advised that the interview was not the right “forum” for this. I did not have to prove my innocence – and anything I gave the police would either be used against me or ignored. Of course, I particularly wanted to deny the false accusation of having sent a threatening message; but such a denial would not have amounted to evidence of anything, and I was advised that a mix of “no comment” and denials would look inconsistent and leave a poor impression.

My lawyer’s advice is supported by Dr Michael Naughton of the Innocence Project, in a 2011 paper titled “How the Presumption of Innocence Renders the Innocent Vulnerable to Wrongful Convictions” (Irish Journal of Legal Studies 2 (1): 40-54):

[A]nalyses of recent successful appeals demonstrate how normal and acceptable methods of police investigations fundamentally undermine the [Presumption of Innocence] at the initial and most crucial stage of the criminal justice process when information is being gathered and cases are being constructed and can lead to wrongful convictions. This is because the role of police investigations in an adversarial system is not to find evidence that suspects of crime are innocent but, rather, to treat situations that they are called to as potential crime scenes and seek evidence that incriminates suspects for alleged criminal offences to pass to the Crown Prosecution Service (C.P.S.) to supply a criminal charge.

Naughton is here highlighting a general systemic weakness in how the police handle suspects when an investigation is done according to the proper procedure; however, he also notes instances where “police clearly breached policing guidelines and codes of conduct” – and in my case, it would have been cautious to assume good faith.

As noted above, my lawyer judged that I had been threatened with wrongful arrest, and there was also a specific concern in that several officers at High Wycombe police station had the year before been disciplined for misusing police resources to harass a PC’s former girlfriend – a woman named Katie Bowman – with false allegations. I was naturally therefore very wary of the police culture at the station. My words might very easily have been deliberately taken out of context and maliciously distorted.

I was interviewed by a young PC (one of Rice’s more pointless misrepresentations here is that I was supposedly interviewed by “detectives”), who consulted with her Sergeant before making decisions (my lawyer described this as being unusual). I was subsequently able to confirm via a Subject Access Request that this Sergeant was indeed the former PC who had led the harassment of Bowman.

(2) Principle

I had been forced to attend a police interview under protest; therefore, it was appropriate to assert my autonomy by offering only minimal co-operation.

(3) Proving a point

I continue to maintain that the threat of arrest was improper. The police cannot say that my case was dropped because I provided a convincing counter-narrative (although I do have one) – it was dropped because they had nothing to start with, and the outcome proves this.

(4) Seeking a speedy resolution

The fact that the case was dropped two days after my interview, without being referred to the CPS, also proves that “no comment” was the correct course of action to ensure a speedy resolution; had I given the police a counter-narrative to think about, it would have been an excuse for them to string things out for months while they gave it their consideration (another police practice that Neil Wallis has complained about). That would have meant an extensive period during which Rice would have ben crowing about my being under investigation, while I would have been under legal advice not to respond.

Also, Rice was hoping that police interest in me would intimidate others from writing about his trolling and harassment. On the day that I received the PIN (15 September 2014), Rice emailed the author Peter Jukes. Peter was in the process of publishing his book about the phone-hacking trials, Beyond Contempt, including details about how Rice had goaded him – under his own name and as @tabloidtroll – during the period of the trials (discussed here). Rice wrote:

Dear Mr Jukes,

Just so you know – Richard Bartholomew has this morning been issued with a harassment warning by Sussex Police over his ongoing trolling of me. If he tweets or blogs, or tries to contact me in any way he will be criminally charged.

I am contacting you because you have assisted him by retweeting his lies and smears.

…The police have told me that if associates of Bartholomew – who would obviously include you – continue to tweet abuse regarding me either directly or indirectly they to will be issued with harassment warnings on the understanding that charges would follow breaching those warnings.

I am putting you on notice now that I consider you to be culpable in encouraging this abuse and that I have enough evidence to put to the police regarding your past involvement to show that this constitutes repeated harassment under the 2012 amendments. I strongly suggest you desist now as Mr Bartholomew will hopefully do. That way we can all get on with out lives.

This would be the same man who had previously Tweeted to Peter in mocking terms about how how Peter was supposedly “wetting your pants when a real journalist turns his gaze on you. I’m coming.”

The email to Peter is further evidence that Rice believed that he could manipulate the police to do his bidding by making vexatious claims (indeed, there is now something of a trend by which bogus harassment complaints have replaced making libel threats as the bully’s choice weapon to oppress those who stand up to them; I discussed a further example here). It also proves that Rice knows that the PIN had been prompted by his false allegations ahead of any investigation, rather than being a warning after my interview, as he now pretends to believe.

By concluding the matter as quickly as possible, a cloud was lifted – I had proven that his boast that I would be “criminally charged” was hollow, and shown that others had nothing to fear from the police if they discussed his behaviour.

[UPDATE: In a recent outburst, Rice has claimed that “Apparently 9 out of ten people who go no comment in a police interview are guilty”. No source is given for such a statistic, but it is self-evidently unsustainable: obviously, no lawyer would advise a course of action that would mean a 90% chance of conviction, so Rice’s figure must include a proportion of people who supposedly avoid prosecution despite being guilty. Doubtless, this must happen sometimes: but how exactly would any researcher go about establishing how often it happens? The researcher would have to review every case in which someone who gave a “no comment” interview was not prosecuted, and then somehow be able to identify beyond any doubt all the particular instances in which a guilty person has eluded justice. This is methodologically impossible.

Alternatively, perhaps Rice means that 9 out 10 prosecutions of individuals who give no comment interviews end with convictions. However, that is a rather different subset. My lawyer said to me that he advises “no comment” interviews in two circumstances: (a) where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt, and nothing the suspect can say will help their case; and (b) where there is absolutely no evidence to support the allegation. Obviously it will individuals in category (a) who will be most likely to appear in court, and then to be convicted. Even so, though, such a high percentage is unlikely; I suspect Rice is making it up, and that he here allows for 1 in 10 as innocent because some journalists – such as Neil Wallis, John Troup, and Ben O’Driscoll – gave “no comment” interviews in relation to phone-hacking allegations.]

My complaint to police

Following the interview, I made a formal complaint to Thames Valley Police, both about the decision to issue the PIN and the threat of arrest. The complaints process is slow and opaque, and I have discovered that the police will only consider the very narrow question of whether an officer has exceeded their powers. The police do not see themselves as answerable to the public for operational decisions, even when it is obvious that decisions were flawed or even incoherent.

On the specific issue of PINs, I’ve been told that the police don’t need to review the decision to issue the PIN as PINs are meaningless anyway. My attention was drawn to Parliamentary Publications and Records website:

These notices are not provided for in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and do not in themselves constitute any kind of formal legal action. Therefore there is no formal police procedure which must be followed, and no set time limit during which they have effect. Because acknowledging receipt of a Police Information Notice does not mean that the recipient is admitting any wrongdoing, there is no right of appeal. If a person is unhappy about the fact that the warning was issued, he or she could complain to the police force or to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Specific legal advice from a suitably qualified professional would be necessary if a recipient wished to check the implications of the PIN for future action they might wish to take.

The potential for abuse here is enormous – and the problems around PINs are discussed here in a 2010 Guardian article by Emma Norton of Liberty.

Oddly, at the same time that my complaint was being considered, the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton, was giving evidence in Parliament to the Home Affairs Committee as part of an inquiry into PINs. Thornton specifically rejected a suggestion that officers are “trigger happy” when it comes to issuing PINs. If my experience is anything to go by, her denial does not reflect the true situation.

Rice makes further police threats

Rice has continued to boast and bluster about how he can use the police against critics, although there is no evidence that he has any success with this. There have been two particular incidents.

(1) August 2015 – threat to use police to create “a time consuming and expensive business”

In August 2015, I used Twitter to recall to a threat* that Rice had made as @tabloidtroll in late 2012. Another Twitter-user asked in response: “@Barthsnotes @bloggerheads did either of you ever get that ‘face to face’ with Rice? because, you know? I’m available as willing champion ;)”.

That was obviously a reference to Rice’s habit of claiming that he intends to have “face to face” encounters with his targets. Rice pretended to believe that this was a threat against his family, and he sent me an email:

Dear Mr Bartholomew,

I note that you have still not removed your malicious and defamatory content from Twitter, in particular despite my expressing my concern that you are again inciting others to physically harm me.

Given that I believe this is putting me and my family at risk I am going to have to report this to the police tomorrow unless you have removed it by then.

As you found on the last occasion you are not above the law and being interviewed by the police again will be a time consuming and expensive business.  That is without your even being charged – which will likely occur should you continue this harassment campaign.

Dennis Rice

As the Appendix below explains, this is something of a pattern with Rice – he acts aggressively, mocks his targets for “cowardice” if they complain, and then shamelessly poses as a victim. The bad faith in the above is so gratuitous that it hardly needs further comment: a genuine “victim” does not boast about using the police to generate “a time consuming and expensive business”.

I do not know if he actually contacted the police at this time, or if this was just a hollow boast.

[*Errata: I misremembered this slightly: the Tweet under discussion was in fact a threat to harass someone rather than a threat of violence, as I originally wrote. However, Rice did make a threat of violence during this same period as @tabloidtroll, specifically: “know I’m coming for you, and its going to get bloody :-)”. That was the Tweet I was thinking of.]

(2) April/May 2016 – police reject new complaint

In April 2016, the Telegraph published a sloppy Andrew Gilligan hatchet job attacking Byline Media, an organisation with which Peter Jukes is involved. Rice used the opportunity to send a goading message to Peter (discussed here), which led to a new altercation.

Rice then repeated his wearisome and childish pattern of aggression followed by a pose of victimhood, in a warning message to Steven Nott (a former Leveson witness on the subject of phone hacking) on 22 April:

Dear Mr Nott,

You do not have my permission to publish this email -should you do so you will be reported to the police. This is merely and advisory.

At 01.24am this morning Thames Valley Police logged a criminal complaint against Messers Peter Jukes and Richard Bartholomew (reference no 43160109992). I would therefore be grateful if you could not add to the harassment and also find yourself being interviewed by police.

I assume, should this prove necessary, that you still reside at:

[Address redacted]

Dennis Rice

Again, this is typical correspondence from Rice – confident and boastful that he can get the police to do his bidding; a creepy “I know where you live” element; and a warning that the recipient is not allowed to let people know what he’s saying to them (a subconscious indication that he knows his conduct is discreditable). Steven says he received a phone call after publishing the above, in which someone asked him several times whether he wanted to go to prison, before hanging up.

Police did not contact either me or Peter about this, but this time I decided to be proactive and to contact police myself. In due course, I received confirmation from an officer at Thames Valley Police that “since his initial complaint, Mr Rice has failed to return my emails or provide me any evidence of an offence. As a result, his complaint has filed with no further action.”

It is obvious that Rice here made a vexatious complaint, which he then used to attempt to throw his weight around with Steven. I think most reasonable people see this as further evidence that his 2014 complaint against me was either malicious or delusional.

Appendix 1: Rice’s claim to have received a threatening email

Just before the interview, my lawyer was told that Rice’s complaint included the claim that I had sent him an anonymous threatening email (from “Journo Hater”, at a Hushmail address) , and that I was responsible for a short-lived anonymous Twitter account that had goaded him with a photo of his face taken from Press Gazette. These specific allegations did not appear in the PIN, although they apparently formed the basis for it – one of many shortcomings that I have unsuccessfully tried to raise with the police.

For the record, I of course had nothing to do with either of these. That kind of thing is completely beneath me, and it would have made no sense to give Rice such an obvious gift at a time when he had just received a police warning after making repeated threats (including a phone call) to visit a member of my family’s address for a confrontation, and at a time when he would have been desperate to discredit my July 2014 blogpost about my experiences of his sordid trolling.

I don’t claim to know where the email or Twitter account came from, but a couple of observations are in order.

(1) Previous claims to have received threats

A few weeks before his complaint to police, Rice sent an email to Steven Nott, which Steven published on his website. Rice subsequently left a comment:

This afternoon I found myself giving a statement to an officer from Holborn Police Station about messages threatening physical harm to myself and my family which were sent to me after you posted my private email address on your website.

It is not known whether Rice really made a complaint to police, but there seems to be a pattern in which Rice has a hostile interaction which is then followed by the claim that he has received an anonymous threat.

Similarly, it should also be remembered that in April 2014 the Mail on Sunday had sent a journalist named Ross Slater into a foodbank to get food, in order to suggest that the number of people using them may not reflect true need. Slater received considerable criticism for this, and Rice, writing as Tabloid Troll, announced that Slater’s family had received death threats as a result. Among those Rice accused of “inciting” these supposed threats was the Guardian‘s Ben Goldacre.

(2) Rice’s computer hacking accusation

After my police interview, I mentioned the threatening email accusation to a third person, who in turn raised the subject with Rice on Twitter. Rice immediately accused this third person of having hacked his computer, on the grounds that no-one knew about the email except himself and the police. This means that Rice must have known that this person could not have sent the email, or have spoken with any other supposed sender. Now, how could that be?

Appendix 2: Rice responds to this post

In March 2016, Rice wrote to me to object to the above, in the following terms:

Let us be clear that the only person with a record for online trolling and harassment is you. Anyone who contacts Thames Valley Police would learn that you were issued with a PIN notice after giving a “no comment” interview when you were invited to explain behaviour which included distributing a stolen photograph of me shortly before I received anonymous threats to visit my home.

Your attempt to re write history over this interview – I think you put up some nonsense about a “robust response” (sitting there meekly saying nothing and then getting PIN notice is not robust) – and then accuse me of doing what you are doing yourself is in my view part of a pattern of continued harassment.


Now we both know,despite your letter writing and your pretence of having evidence which supports your trolling, that this PIN notice is never going to be lifted. I strongly suggest you man up and move on, or else as you will force me to take you on in the real world, this will be the last of your worries.

In particular, he boasts about his ability to cause harm by writing to employers:

What I have is a record of taking on sad little trolls like you on in the real world – as with pointing out to the employers of your various cohorts (all male low achievers with a loathing of successful women) how they are harass others, and in some instances the firm’s clients, online.

I haven’t had time to devote to dealing with you in that respect but if you keep persisting with your trolling then I am going to have to make some.

Appendix 3: Claim of Accessing Bank Statements

During a further outburst in May 2016, Rice also accused me of having accessed and distributed someone’s bank statements. Rice is here referring to a false accusation made by Nadine Dorries in 2015, which she published after having received what purported to be an anonymous email tip-off. Police traced the sender of the email; his name was not disclosed to me, but I have emails from the police confirming that when this anonymous accuser was asked to substantiate his claim, he backed down, stating that he had only passed on a rumour. Rice and Dorries both appear to have been rather fortunate when it comes to receiving anonymous messages that have given them excuses to go running to the police.