A MAN with mental health problems waged a campaign of terror against an MP and her staff.

Blackburn magistrates heard staff were “filled with dread” when Paul Daniel Griffiths turned up at the Burnley constituency office of Julie Cooper.

And the court was told the fears of the MP and her staff were heightened by the 2016 murder of Yorkshire MP Jo Cox.

Phillipa White, prosecuting, said Griffiths, 32, first started contacting the MP's office because he had been blacklisted by the NHS under a zero tolerance scheme.

That followed an incident were he had been standing on a surgery car park shouting abuse after he had been removed from the doctors’ list.

Mrs White said he also had a malicious communications conviction from 2017 when he threatened to burn down the offices of a firm of solicitors who were representing him in a claim.

“He felt they were not dealing with his claim in the way he would have liked,” said Mrs White.

She said Griffiths had started contacting the constituency office seeking help with his removal from the doctors’ list.

“The frequency of emails increased and he was using abusive and aggressive language which was causing considerable anxiety,” said Mrs White.

“There were voicemails which contained similar aggressive and abusive language. In the aftermath of the murder of Jo Cox there was particular concern about this kind of behaviour.”

Griffiths was warned off by police and there was no contact for four months until February when the emails and voice messages started again.

On April 4 he turned up at the constituency office in Charter Walk and gained admission because the door was damaged.

“It was explained to him that he wasn’t welcome,” said Mrs White. “He was speaking in a quiet voice which a member of staff described as sinister. He was saying that they wouldn’t get away with it”

In victim impact statements the office manager reported that one member of staff had resigned the day after Griffiths attended and another said she had gone home from work in tears on several occasions because of the defendant’s behaviour. She said he had left her “feeling frightened and paranoid and full of dread.”

Griffiths left and when he was arrested at his home police discovered 22 cannabis plants.

Trevor Grice, defending, said his client had initiated contact with his MP because he was on the NHS zero tolerance scheme and wanted help so he could sign on with a GP.

“He has been suffering mental health problems for some years and these were exacerbated in 2013 when he suffered a head injury in a car crash,” said Mr Grice.

“He says he has been trying to get help with his mental health issues and his frustration built up. You are dealing with a vulnerable defendant and the probation service have said the impact of prison on him would be negative.”

Griffiths, of Wynotham Street, Burnley, pleaded guilty to sending grossly offensive emails and voice messages to Julie Cooper MP for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety, harassing members of her staff by through emails and voicemail and producing cannabis.

He was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, made subject to a community order for 12 months with 10 days' rehabilitation and fined £200 for the drugs offence.

He was made subject to a restraining order for three years which prohibits him from entering the constituency office or contacting Julie Cooper or her staff.

Deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram, who was required to hear the case because it involves a sitting MP, said he took a very serious view of the offences.

“Your behaviour was directed at the MP, a public servant, who through her daily work is exposed to all sorts of risks,” he said. “They are open and accessible because that is the way democracy works in this country.”

He said the threats made by Griffiths had been taken seriously in the current climate.

“The courts will protect all public servants who are on the receiving end of abuse and threats,” said deputy senior district judge Ikram.

Mrs Cooper said: “I am pleased this case has come to a resolution. I hope it sends out a message that it is not acceptable to be abusive to public servants and staff."