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Greenham resident claims councillor should not have sent "spam" email relating to execution of US citizen

A WEST Berkshire councillor has denied claims that he abused his position of authority by sending “spam” emails to a list of contacts collected from local residents on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

Julian Swift-Hook (Lib Dem, Greenham), a district councillor for Greenham and Greenham parish councillor, has defended his actions after he sent out a group email on Tuesday to hundreds of subscribers to the Greenham E-News newsletter urging them to ‘Please help stop the execution of Troy Davis', a convicted murderer in the United States who was executed last night (Wednesday).

But one recipient of the email expressed his outrage that the email was in no way relevant to Greenham, despite him having signed up to the newsletter group in good faith that it was be used for Greenham news only rather than what he said amounted to “spam” that was one councillor's “pet hobby/interest”.

Subscriber Tony Quinn replied to Mr Swift-Hook, and other recipients, saying: “I'm genuinely shocked by your abuse of the permission we gave you to send us emails related to our local area!

“I feel you have abused the implied permission you have had by your local signed-up email list.

“We have yobs running wild in the streets here and creating havoc here in our local community… I expect my local councillor to be concerned with my problems and not someone found guilty by his peers legally 4,000 miles away!”

He went on: “Your email distribution list should not be concerned with USA/Troy Davis, or anyone/anything that is not in Greenham.

“You do not have permission to put this stuff in my inbox. This is spam! There is no excuse for this.”

The email content had referred to a campaign to prevent the execution of Troy Davis, who was convicted of killing a police officer in the American state of Georgia. His high profile case has been the centre of much controversy with the likes of celebrities including Salmon Rushdie, Mia Farrow and Alec Baldwin calling for him not to receive the death penalty after learning that several witnesses from the trial had later retracted their statements.

However, at 7pm EDT yesterday (midnight GMT) Mr Davis was killed by lethal injection.

Mr Swift-Hook replied to Mr Quinn yesterday saying: “I am saddened that you apparently consider the life of a fellow human being to be so unimportant, but regardless of whether Troy Davis lives or dies tonight, I will nonetheless continue to do my best as your Ward Councillor to address the issues that affect every-day life in Greenham, as I have done for the last 14 years.”

He also said E-News was primarily news and information about Greenham, but that sometimes important issues arose that he believed were potentially of interest to, or had an impact on, the residents of Greenham as citizens of West Berkshire, citizens of the UK, and citizens of the world.

He said: “The deeply disturbing Troy Davis case is one such issue; it is a very uncomfortable matter to contemplate, but if we turn our back on such a huge potential miscarriage of justice because it is uncomfortable to contemplate, we are passively complicit in it, in my view.”

Mr Swift-Hook also urged Mr Quinn to provide more information about the extreme anti-social behaviour in Greenham that he mentioned and said he personally owns and manages the domain under which the addresses were collected, although the footer of his email states that it is distributed on behalf of Greenham Liberal Democrats.

Fellow Greenham Liberal Democrat council member, Billy Drummond, supported Mr Swift-Hook's action, saying: “I saw the email when it came out and I didn't see anything wrong with it. The Troy Davis issue was important and I think Julian had a right to express his view on it.”

At the footer of Mr Swift-Hook's email it states: “You have received this email because you are subscribed to the Greenham E-News email list. We hate spam and unwanted emails as much as anyone - we want to keep you up-to-date with what's happening in Greenham, but we definitely don't want to send you emails you don't want,” adding that subscribers have the option to be removed from the list immediately.

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