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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In focusing on the famous few, we risk doing a disservice to all victims of child sexual abuse

There is a danger that we make it harder, not easier, for victims to come forward in future. 

Back in the 1970s when relations between journalists and police were somewhat different to today a simple ritual would be carried out around the country at various times throughout the week.

Reporters, eager for information for their regional newspaper, would take a trip to the local station and there would be met by a desk sergeant who would helpfully skim through details in the crime Incident Book.

Among the entries about petty thefts, burglaries and road accidents there would occasionally be a reference to an allegation of incest. And at this point the sergeant and journalist might well screw-up their faces, shake their heads and swiftly move on to the next log. The subject was basically taboo, seen as something ‘a bit mucky,’ not what was wanted in a family newspaper.

And that’s really the way things stayed until 1986 when ChildLine was set up by Dame Esther Rantzen in the wake of a BBC programme about child abuse. For the first time children felt able to speak out about being sexually assaulted by the very adults whose role in life was to protect them.

And for the first time the picture became clear about what incest really meant in many cases. It wasn’t simply a low level crime to be swept under the carpet in case it scratched people’s sensitivities. It frequently involved children being abused by members of their close family, repeatedly, over many years.

Slowly but surely as the years rolled on the NSPCC continued to press the message about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, while encouraging victims to come forward. During this time the corrosive effects of this most insidious crime have been painfully detailed by many of those whose lives have been derailed by it. And of course the details of the hundreds of opportunistic sexual assaults committed by Jimmy Savile have been indelibly branded onto the nation’s consciousness.

It’s been a long road - particularly for those who were raped or otherwise abused as children and are now well into their later years - to bring society around to accepting that this is not to be treated as a dark secret that we really don’t want to expose to daylight. Many of those who called our helpline during the early days of the Savile investigation had never told anyone about the traumatic events of their childhoods despite the fact they had reached retirement age.

So, having buried the taboo, we seem to be in danger of giving it the kiss of life with the way some cases of alleged abuse are now being perceived.

It’s quite right that all claims of sexual assault should be investigated, tested and, where there is a case, pursued through the judicial system. No one is above the law, whether a ‘celebrity’ or a lord.

But we seem to have lost a sense of perspective when it comes to these crimes with vast resources being allocated to a handful of cases while many thousands of reported incidents are virtually on hold.

The police should never have to apologise for investigating crimes and following leads. However, if allegations are false or cannot be substantiated they should say so. This would be a strength not a weakness.

It is, of course, difficult that in many of the high-profile cases of recent times the identities of those under investigation have not been officially released by the police but have come to light through other means. Yet we have to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it would be and once names are common knowledge the results of the investigations centring on them should be made public.

When it emerges that someone in the public eye is being investigated for historical child abuse it obviously stirs the interest of the media whose appetite can be insatiable. This puts pressure on the police who don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing offenders to slip through their hands.  And so there is a danger, as has been seen in recent cases, that officers lack confidence in declaring there is a lack of evidence or the allegations are not true. 

The disproportionate weight of media attention given to say, Sir Edward Heath, as opposed to the Bradford grooming gang sentenced this week, shows there is a danger the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. This threatens the painstaking work invested in ensuring the public and our institutions recognise child abuse as a very real danger. 

Whilst high profile cases have helped the cause there is now a real risk that the all-encompassing focus on them does both victims of abuse and those advocating on their behalf a fundamental disservice.

As the public watches high -profile cases collapsing amidst a media fanfare genuine convictions made across the country week in week out go virtually unannounced. If this trend continues they may start to believe that child sexual abuse isn’t the prolific problem we know it to be.

So, while detectives peer into the mists of time, searching for long lost clues, we have to face the unpalatable possibility that offences being committed today will in turn become historical investigations because there is not the manpower to deal with them right now.

Operation Midland, which was set-up to check claims that boys were abused in the 1970s and 80s by a high-level group of paedophiles including politicians, military figures and members of law enforcement agencies, has had up to 40 detectives assigned to it and a similar investigation. Admittedly some of these were murder and major crimes officers but that’s still a large contingent.

In fact if such squads were formed for every historical case the Metropolitan Police would be overwhelmed as last year alone it received reports from nearly 1100 adults – many of them well past retirement age –that they were sexually assaulted when children.

So, now the Goddard Inquiry is in full swing, taking evidence about allegations of child sex crimes involving ‘well known people’ as well as institutional abuse, how do we ensure we don’t fail today’s victims?

If they start to think their stories are going to be diminished by the continuing furore over how some senior public figures have been treated by the police they will stay silent. Therefore we have to continue to encourage them to come forward, to give them the confidence of knowing they will be listened to.

If we don’t we will find ourselves back in those incestuous days where people conspired to say and do nothing to prevent child abuse.

Peter Wanless is Chief Executive of the NSPCC.