Council leader speaks out after terrifying harassment incident at her home

Stevenage council leader Sharon Taylor

Sharon Taylor was subjected to harassment at her home in Stevenage earlier this year - Credit: Stevenage Council

Council leader Sharon Taylor has spoken out after being harassed at her home earlier this year - for which a man from Stevenage has been fined.

James Smith, 40, of Oaks Cross, was found guilty of harassment at St Albans Magistrates' Court on Thursday. 

He was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work within the next 12 months and given a one year restraining order preventing him from contacting Sharon Taylor or going to her residential street. 

St Albans magistrates court in 2017

James Smith, 40, of Oaks Cross, was found guilty of harassment at St Albans Magistrates' Court on Thursday. - Credit: Archant

Smith was also found guilty of failing to surrender to court. He must pay a total of £915 in fines and court costs. 

In May this year, Smith attended Sharon's address with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress. 

She told the Comet: "It was a terrifying incident at the time. These incidents stay with you, like anything else traumatic that happens. 

"What it mustn't do is change the way we do our jobs. Both councils are thinking about how we can do more to protect our members, that's really important.

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"It's not an easy experience, going to court. The witness protection service were incredibly helpful, I'm really grateful to all of the people who helped me.

"I had fantastic support from Stevenage police, and from both the county and borough councils - they've been incredibly supportive - so a big thank you to them.

"That's what gets you through something like this. 

"I hope this will draw a line under it. As politicians, we expect to be held accountable, it's part of our jobs.

"If that steps over the line, it's not right. It should not result in people feeling personally threatened. It's been dealt with by the court and the man has been fined - I don't want this to happen again to councillors or MPs.

"It's a daily occurrence for some of my colleagues. It's a cultural change that we need.

"You can put as much protection in place, but it's important to me as a councillors that we carry on having face to face contact with people, and we should be able to without the fear of any kind of personal attacks.

"Anything like this is an assault on democracy.

"Generally in society we all need to be kinder to people - this is something social media has not helped."

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