Hove man sentenced over abusive letters sent 27 years after workplace fall

Posted On 14 Jul 2021 at 2:23 pm

A Hove man left paralysed after a fall at work 27 years ago was sentenced today for sending abusive letters to one of the colleagues he blamed for making his injuries worse.

Geoffrey Rigden, now 54, fell down the stairs at the Sevenoaks Harvester in 1994, when he was in his twenties.

Instead of leaving him until an ambulance arrived, four colleagues moved him into a chair, which he fell out of, and then into a van to take him to hospital.

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After many months in hospital recovering from three fractures to the skull, he began harassing the four men – Ross McGregor and three others called Alistair, Sean and Martin, in a campaign which went on for many years.

Although he can now walk again, he has not worked since the accident.

In 2005, he was given a harassment notice, which stopped him. But in 2019, he wrote three abusive letters to Mr McGregor – which were opened by his mother Anne McGregor.

Rigden, who represented himself at Brighton Magistrates Court, said: “They were all my friends. It was my fault I fell down the stairs, I got drunk.

“Ross McGregor found me at the bottom of the stairs. I said don’t move my head. The next thing I remember waking up in hospital, paralysed from the neck down.”

He said none of his colleagues had come to visit him at first. He had eventually called Ross, who came to see him and told him they had put him in the back of a car to take him to hospital.

But months later, another colleague told him they had put him on a chair, which he had fallen from.

He said he last saw Mr McGregor in 2005 when he laughed in his face about him being ‘so out of it’.

But he said he hadn’t realised he had left the country, and was ashamed his letters had been read by Mrs McGregor.

He said: “I’m truly, truly sorry. I will never get in contact with anyone from Sevenoaks again.”

At the previous hearing, Mrs McGregor’s victim impact statement was read out, in which she said the harassment had lasted more than 25 years and had been “spectacularly successful”.

She said: “More than 25 years of being stalked by Geoffrey Rigden has taken quite a toll. I became incredibly jumpy.”

She said Rigden had made frequent phonecalls and had watched the house, which she found “unnerving”.

She said noises late at night were frightening, “not knowing if it’s Rigden approaching to rattle the door or just pushing threatening notes or rubbish through the letterbox.”

She added: “I found it deeply disturbing that he has resumed his campaign.”

Rigden, of Cromwell Road, Hove, admitted sending the three letters in December 2019, May 2020 and August 2020 when he appeared at the same court in May.

The first letter said: “You can’t run any more. I may be blind in my left and and deaf in my left ear and you think it’s fine because you are sick.

“I haven’t forgotten, see you soon, your victim.”

The second said: “I have dealt with Martin, it’s just you three to go.”

It ended: “This is no joke, your victim. I’m not letting it go, never.”

The third said: “Ross, I want to meet face to face, just you and me. Phone me to make a date for the future.

“If I have not heard from you by Thursday I will drive up to you. You have a choice, if you make the wrong choice, you will regret it.”

It then gave Rigden’s mobile phone number, and was signed “your victim”.

Mrs McGregor took the letter to police, and Rigden was arrested. He said he had no recollection of sending the first two letters but said he had immediately regretted sending the third.

Rigden was given an 18-month community order, which includes 20 rehabilitation activity days.

He was also fined £100 and ordered to pay costs of £85, a victim surcharge of £85 and £100 compensation to Mrs McGregor.

A two-year restraining order, preventing him from contacting either Mr or Mrs McGregor was also passed.

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