Monday, 12 November 2007

MP 'pesters' teenage woman over the internet

TAUNTON Deane MP Jeremy Browne, aged 37, has been accused of pestering a 19-year-old woman via the internet.
The MP, who is currently going through a divorce from his wife of three years Charlotte, tried repeatedly to make the young woman accept him as ‘friend’ on the social networking website Facebook.
Despite being rejected, Mr Browne persisted in contacting the woman to try to persuade her to change her mind.
He only stopped after the woman rejected up to half-a-dozen approaches from him.
The woman, who is a student and did not want to be identified, used to live near Wiveliscombe but has since moved to Taunton.
She told The Post: “The first time it happened I meant to reject it but I must have clicked on the accept button by mistake.
“When I realised what had happened, I removed him from my list of friends straight away.
“But the next day he came back again with another request for me to be his friend so I deleted it immediately.
“Then it happened again, and again. This went on over a period of several days and it was quite scary in a way that he kept trying it on after I said ‘no’.
“I knew he was the MP but I did not want him as a friend and I do not know why he would not take ‘no’ for an answer.
“When I told my friends what was happening, some of them thought it was rather ‘pervy’ that a 37-year-old man whom I did not know was trying to make friends with me over the internet.
“I have looked at Mr Browne’s Facebook site and it is obvious that he has a lot of women friends on it and a lot of them look to be quite young.
“On his MySpace site I noticed he had a 16-year-old girl as one of his friends, which really makes you wonder what he is doing.
“I’ve asked around and loads of my friends have got him on their sites as a friend but they do not seem to know why they added him, perhaps because they thought he was a friend of a friend.
“I have no idea how many other women this may have happened to and maybe some women have accepted him as a friend without realising it.”
The woman said it was a concern that her site had been obtained by the MP because it was not something she made available to people unless they were close friends.
She said her Facebook profile was closed except to her friends and the MP could not have found it by accident.
“He must have made an effort to track me down,” she said. “I once had a leaflet from the Liberal Democrats asking me about what I thought was important in the area and trying to get me to give them my personal details like my email, but I threw it away because I did not want them to know personal things like that.”
Mr Browne has recently boasted in his column in the Somerset County Gazette of the ‘wonders of Facebook’, which he said was ‘strangely addictive’.
He claimed to have 700 ‘friends’ on his site with whom he could ‘communicate quickly and frequently’ to impart information.
Mr Browne told The Post: “I can absolutely assure you that I did not do that. I do not want to be cast as some sort of internet stalker because that is not the case.
“I might occasionally ask people to be friends of mine. I did some when I started, but it is more now people asking me.
“Two other people in the office have password access to it and it is possible and conceivable that one member of staff has asked somebody to be a friend of mine and it is possible that the other one also did.
“I have no interest in coercing people to be friends of mine on Facebook, that is not my nature.”
Mr Browne said he used Facebook as a communication tool rather than for its social networking application.
He believed there was a tool for Facebook users to block unwanted approaches, similar to blocking unsolicited emails, and he was also checking whether there was any automated process which might account for a request being repeated.
  • Our photograph shows the teenager logging onto her Facebook site to check if MP Jeremy Browne was still bothering her. Photo submitted.

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