Leon Knight, ex-footballer and noted misogynist, suspended from Twitter

His "Slag Alert Pictures" stunt backfired.

Leon Knight was a footballer. At the age of 29, he finds himself without a club, after he was released from Glentoran after allegedly making homophobic comments on Twitter.

Until yesterday, though, there was a place where Leon Knight still had an audience: Twitter.  As @leonknight82, he had 102,800 followers, who enjoyed such banterous tweets as "Hoes have to know 80% of men have a sat nav hoe alert device programmed into our brains you can't fool us lol #beat&delete". A month ago, he went after Jamie O'Hara, claiming that his wife Danielle was a "hoe" and trying to provoke both of them into responding to his increasingly obscene tweets. (I made a Storify of that here; it's pretty unpleasant).

Anyway, for the last couple of days, Knight has been trailing "Slag Alert Pictures", his latest brave foray into the world of "exposing" women who've sent dirty pictures to their boyfriends. He even created a hashtag, #SAP. The plan was to tweet compromising pictures of these women, to shame them - and entertain his fans. The stunt added tens of thousands of followers

Now, I'm not going to detain you with amateur psychology on Leon Knight, who seems to veer between common or garden misogyny and "person you'd cross the continent on avoid". I just wanted to make a record of exactly how this went down.

First, Knight tweeted about the #SAP idea, and published an email address for people to send pictures to.

He claimed that someone had sent the following email, and he'd therefore decided to have mercy on them:

 

 

Then he published an image of a chalk board with the Twitter handles of the women he planned to target. Clearly, a fair proportion of his 102,000 fans then got in touch with the women to taunt them about their upcoming public vilification, because you see messages like this:

 

 

Not everyone was cowed, though:

 

 

Rather heartwarmingly, one of the targeted women's timeline simply contained "thank you" after "thank you", as she showed her gratitude to all the people who'd got in touch to say how horrific they found the whole idea.

That angered Leon Knight, who started tweeting that he was going to "ruin her whole life". (I've blanked out her name.)

 

 

Tragically, nothing was going to stop Leon Knight. I missed his initial flurry of tweets, and by the time that I checked, the photos he'd posted had disappeared. Here he claims that "Twitter" had deleted them.

 

By the end of the evening, one of the women said that she was receiving death threats and tweeted a photo of herself apparently in a police station, where she claimed to be reporting the crime. (I've been unable to find any credible report of Knight's arrest, although the rumour has been swirling on blogs and social networking sites). Another one of the Twitter handles from Knight's "blackboard of shame" appeared to show that the account had been deleted. 

And this morning, I checked for Leon Knight's account and found this:

Now, I don't think there are any grand conclusions to be drawn from this - apart from the fact that misogynists have fan clubs. It was a man who tipped me off about Knight's latest rampage, and for every witless idiot cheering him on, there was someone else disgusted by the flagrant bullying and slut-shaming. 

But it is worth recording. Because this stuff happens, and ignoring it won't stop it happening. Staffordshire police looked into Knight's earlier tweets to Jamie and Danielle O'Hara, and yet there he was last night, moving on to a new target. As our lives get more and more networked, those of us who use public spaces are going to have to decide how to deal with the Leon Knights of this world. 

Or, as This Is My England put it:

Digital technologies: changing faster than we get get our heads around the risks which come along with the useful functionalities. So let's be careful out there.

Update 2.30pm I've just contacted Staffordshire Police's press office, who confirm that Knight was cautioned last month over the tweets to the O'Haras. But they haven't received a new complaint.   

Leon Knight, who has been suspended from Twitter, in the shirt of his former club, Swansea. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Why the Psychoactive Substances Act is much better than anyone will admit

Under the Psychoactive Substances Act it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess for their own consumption recreational drugs too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

From Thursday, it may be illegal for churches to use incense. They should be safe from prosecution though, because, as the policing minister was forced to clarify, the mind-altering effects of holy smells aren’t the intended target of the Psychoactive Substances Act, which comes into force this week.

Incense-wafters aren’t the only ones wondering whether they will be criminalised by the Act. Its loose definition of psychoactive substances has been ridiculed for apparently banning, among other things, flowers, perfume and vaping.

Anyone writing about drugs can save time by creating a shortcut to insert the words “the government has ignored its advisors” and this Act was no exception. The advisory council repeatedly warned the government that its definition would both ban things that it didn’t mean to prohibit and could, at the same time, be unenforcable. You can guess how much difference these interventions made.

But, bad though the definition is – not a small problem when the entire law rests on it – the Act is actually much better than is usually admitted.

Under the law, it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess, for their own consumption, recreational drugs that are considered too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

That sounds like a mess, and it is. But it’s a mess that many reformers have long advocated for other drugs. Portugal decriminalised drug possession in 2001 while keeping supply illegal, and its approach is well-regarded by reformers, including the Liberal Democrats, who pledged to adopt this model in their last manifesto.

This fudge is the best option out of what was politically possible for dealing with what, until this week, were called legal highs.

Before the Act, high-street shops were free to display new drugs in their windows. With 335 head shops in the UK, the drugs were visible in everyday places – giving the impression that they couldn’t be that dangerous. As far as the data can be trusted, it’s likely that dozens of people are now dying each year after taking the drugs.

Since legal highs were being openly sold and people were thought to be dying from them, it was obvious that the government would have to act. Until it did, every death would be blamed on its inaction, even if the death rate for users of some newly banned drugs may be lower than it is for those who take part in still-legal activities like football. The only question was what the government would do.

The most exciting option would have been for it to incentivise manufacturers to come up with mind-altering drugs that are safe to take. New Zealand is allowing drug makers to run trials of psychoactive drugs, which could eventually – if proved safe enough – be sold legally. One day, this might change the world of drug-taking, but this kind of excitement was never going to appeal to Theresa May’s Home Office.

What was far more plausible was that the government would decide to treat new drugs like old ones. Just as anyone caught with cocaine or ecstasy faces a criminal record, so users of new drugs could have been hit with the same. This was how legal highs have been treated up until now when one was considered serious enough to require a ban.

But instead, the government has recognised that its aim – getting new drugs out of high-street shop windows so they don’t seem so normal – didn’t depend on criminalising users. A similar law in Ireland achieved precisely this. To its credit, the government realised it would be disproportionate to make it a criminal offence to possess the now-illegal highs.

The reality of the law will look chaotic. Users will still be able to buy new drugs online – which could open them to prosecution for import – and the law will do nothing to make drugs any safer. Some users might now be exposed to dealers who also want to sell them more dangerous other drugs. There will be few prosecutions and some head shop owners might try to pick holes in the law: the government seems to have recognised that it needed a better definition to have any chance of making the law stick.

But, most importantly for those of us who think the UK’s drug laws should be better at reducing the damage drugs cause, the government, for the first time, has decided that a class of recreational drugs are too dangerous to be sold but that it shouldn’t be a crime to possess them. The pressure on the government to act on legal highs has been relieved, without ordinary users being criminalised. For all the problems with the new law, it’s a step in the right direction.

Leo Barasi is a former Head of Communications at the UK Drug Policy Commission. He writes in a personal capacity