Woman spared jail for Moray councillor hate mail

The wife of a former councillor who admitted sending his successor hate mail narrowly avoided jail today.

Joan Stewart has avoided jail despite admitting she sent hate mail to former Councillor Carolle Ralph. Picture: TSPL
Joan Stewart has avoided jail despite admitting she sent hate mail to former Councillor Carolle Ralph. Picture: TSPL

• Joan Stewart spared jail for sending hate mail to former Councillor Carolle Ralph

• Stewart, wife of Ms Ralph’s previous incumbent, admitted sending abusive notes anonymously

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Joan Stewart sent a string of offensive letters to the woman who won her husband’s seat on The Moray Council.

Councillor Carolle Ralph resigned in December after she was subjected to a “personal campaign of intimidation” following her election victory last year.

Mrs Ralph won the seat in a shock victory over former Lossiemouth councillor and colleague David Stewart.

But she quit after only seven months in the job when she was sent the series of anonymous letters.

Stewart, 59, previously admitted causing Mrs Ralph to suffer fear and alarm by sending the mail when she appeared at Elgin Sheriff Court.

The court heard today during sentencing that she told police her actions were a direct result of her husband’s election loss.

Fiscal depute Alison Wylie said: “She was asked what her intentions were and what she hoped to achieve.

“She said, ‘I think I just wanted her to know the feelings of the folk in the town - what folk were saying.’

“It was a reaction to how her husband reacted having lost the election.

“Mrs Ralph was elected while Mr Stewart was not re-elected.

“It fractured the good relationship Mrs Ralph had formed with Mr Stewart and his family including the accused.”

Mrs Ralph was elected for the first time as one of four councillors to serve the Heldon and Laich ward for Moray Council in May last year.

The former social worker was put up against sitting councillor and colleague Dave Stewart, 59, and the nationalist vote in the ward was split, resulting in Mr Stewart losing his seat.

It was a shock defeat for Mr Stewart who had served as the chairman of the Save RAF Lossiemouth campaign to stop the base being closed down.

The former councillor later quit the SNP party and is now working in the oil industry.

Defence agent Ian Cruickshank said the case was “tragic” for Mrs Ralph, democracy, the community of Lossiemouth and for the once proud councillor’s wife.

He apologised on behalf of Stewart to Mrs Ralph.

Mr Cruickshank said: “Democracy had spoken and that should have been the end of matters.

“But what Mrs Stewart saw was her husband in quite a state.

“Mr Stewart’s world collapsed following the election result.

“This sad chapter needs to end.”

Mrs Ralph claimed she had been put under “unacceptable” stress as the result of stalking when she resigned from her post in December.

The allegations shocked the small community in Moray.

Police were called in to investigate claims that Mrs Ralph had been stalked and had become a target for vicious bullying.

Officers took DNA and fingerprint samples from one of the four handwritten letters and the Stewart family were asked to provide elimination samples as witnesses.

However suspicions arose when Mr Stewart’s wife refused to provide a sample

on February 8.

A day later she admitted to police that she penned the letters.

During sentencing Sheriff Susan Raeburn said: “This is not a court of politics, this is not a court of morals, this is not a court of public opinion.

“This is a court of justice and impartiality.”

The sheriff imposed a community payback order on Stewart as a direct alternative to prison.

She was ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work in the community within eight months.

Stewart is also under supervision for a year and must attend victim awareness and anger management counselling.