John Graham Kerlen narrowly avoided a jail sentence for referring to a local politician using a curse word.

The blogger and active Twitter user was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and was handed a five-year restraining order. Kerlen had faced up to six months in prison.

Kerlen, who blogs and tweets under the moniker Olly Cromwell, was found guilty last month of sending “grossly offensive” and “menacing” communications on Twitter to a council member in London suburb Bexley.

In October, Kerlen tweeted a photo of a home apparently belonging to Bexley Councillor Melvin Seymour. The rest of the tweet read: “Which c--- lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to #bexleycouncil. (ignore my reflection).” This was followed by another post: “It’s silly posting a picture of a house on Twitter without an address, that will come later. Please feel free to post actual shit.”

Kerlen claimed the incident was a “politically motivated prosecution” related to his citizen journalism efforts related to ongoing issues with Bexley Council.

However, Kerlen was handed a restraining order at a pre-trial hearing in December, where he was ordered “not to own, operate or write on a website or social media any criticisms of Bexley Council” or “not to write directly or indirectly about Bexley Councillors on any site.” He claimed that such conditions related to his case were limiting his free speech.

The sentencing played out on Twitter, with Kerlen himself tweeting from the dock and others in attendance using the #FreeTheBexleyOne hashtag.

Some hit out at the judge for apparently failing to recognize the case was “politically motivated.” Others were concerned about the impact that the case could have on free speech in the U.K.

Kerlen has been banned from making contact with the Bexley councillor concerned, both in person and through social media, for the next five years.

In the end, Kerlen was philosophical about his community-service sentence and wasn’t quite prepared to stop using curse words on Twitter:

“Working for free at least the c---- can't tax me ;o)”

Photo by Lee J Haywood