Saturday, 20 July 2019

Email shame of theatre helper

Email shame of theatre helper

A FORMER box office worker at the Kenton Theatre in Henley has been fined for harassing the general manager.

Richard Rule, 67, sent unsolicited emails to Paula Price-Davies so she complained to police.

Despite being warned by officers, he sent her more messages, including one in which he accused her of breaking his heart.

Rule, of Church Avenue, Henley, admitted the offence at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Friday and was fine £253 and ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

The court heard the offences happened earlier this year when Ms Price-Davies, 51, was in charge of the New Street theatre.

Rule had helped in the box office as a volunteer and then was paid but left because he felt his pay was no longer commensurate with his work.

Ms Price-Davies, a mother of two who lives in Bell Street, Henley, then received “unwanted contacts” from Mr Rule.

Dana Patel, prosecuting said: “Mr Rule knew the victim, Ms Price-Davies. They had worked together at the Kenton Theatre.

“Their relationship had always been strictly professional. His advance was unwanted. When Ms Price-Davies reported Mr Rule to the police on January 19, the police subsequently told him not to contact her.

“Following this, Ms Price-Davies received a series of emails — five in total — from January 20. He expressed his anger with regard to the police involvement.”

Ms Patel read out extracts from the emails, saying they became more upsetting for Ms Price-Davies.

On March 6, he wrote: “I have made a list of some of your faults.”

On March 23 he wrote: “You broke my heart.” The final email, sent on March 29, had the subject line “F*** you”.

In a statement to police, Ms Price-Davies said the emails left her feeling “very anxious and stressed”.

Adonis Daniel, for Rule, said: “The relationship was simply more than professional because I believe that they were indeed friends.

“It would seem Mr Rule probably cared more for the relationship than she did. He thought perhaps it might be more. She thought it was a normal friendship.”

He said that when his client left the theatre the contact between them continued but then suddenly stopped, which made him “somewhat frustrated”.

Mr Daniel said: “He didn’t leave on bad terms. It was to his surprise when he got a phone call from a police officer indicating that she didn’t want him to communicate anymore.

“None of the emails is threatening, they are rather complimentary. He states she is a ‘wonderful woman’.

“The last one where the abuse came in was because he was to be asked to come in for an interview about this alleged harassment. It was clear he hadn’t been threatening to her.

“He was then offered a caution at the end of all this.

“Unfortunately, because Mr Rule didn’t understand the process, he didn’t want to accept the caution because he didn’t want a criminal record. He thought if he didn’t accept the caution the matter would go no further.

“He didn’t really understand that by rejecting the caution, the next step would be to charge him.”

Speaking outside the court, Rule said: “My motivation behind the emails was only frustration that she blocked off all contact with me without giving an explanation.

“We would talk about theatre plus what we were doing with our lives. I was very fond of her but of course it wasn’t reciprocated. But I just wanted an explanation and she wasn’t forthcoming.

“What I did was send her emails, which she would have found irritating and annoying. There was certainly nothing threatening in them.”

He said he was “very disappointed” at the size of his fine, adding: “All for something which should never have gone to court in the first place — I think it’s extortionate.”

Ms Price-Davies, who left the theatre only recently, said: “This has caused me irrevocable damage and definitely contributed to my leaving the Kenton.”

She said it had affected her two children, who are both at university.

“It has made my life very difficult, both personally and professionally,” she said. “You can imagine that it has been very difficult for my family. It has caused unwanted stress and anxiety.

“It’s very sensitive. I have been harassed by him for a long time now. It was harassment without violence but it was a whole series of emails.

“I wanted him to stay away from me and my family but he did not do that. The police issued him with a caution. I would rather he had some kind of restraining order than a fine. Richard caused his own downfall here.

“I do not wish Richard Rule any harm but I just want him to stay away from me and stop contacting me.”

Ms Price-Davies said she had left the theatre but would not say when.

She had stepped down as the general manager in May after two years in the job.

She had shared the role with Tom Ryan until he left last summer. 

The role was then split in May and Paula Price-Davies was put in charge of the artistic as opposed to general managment.

It was the latest in a series of managerial changes at the Kenton, which the fourth oldest working theatre in the country.  

Rule, who used to work in financial services, moved to Henley in 2008 and used to volunteer with the Henley Wildlife Group. In 2015 he stood for election to the town council as a Green Party candidate.

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