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In a first case of its kind, Magistrates’ have jailed a man who posted abusive images to online memorials dedicated to dead children. The man was jailed for 18 weeks and was banned from participating in social networking for a period of five years.

At Court, Sean Duffy, 25 from Reading, admitted to posting images on Facebook and YouTube, making a mockery of the deaths of four children, including 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde who committed suicide.

Duffy admitted to the court that he had posted a video on YouTube called Tasha the Tank Engine shortly after the teenager was found dead on a railway line near her home in Worcestershire.

Paul Warren, the Chairman of the bench which sentenced Duffy, said: “This case serves to illustrate the harm and damage done by the malicious misuse of social networking sites.”

The court heard that Duffy, has been suffering from alcohol problems and has Asperger syndrome.

This prosecution was brought under section 127 of the Malicious Communications Act 2003 which made it an offence for a person to use public electronic communications networks, such as telephone and internet to send or communicate grossly offensive material to others, as well as to send or communicate material which is offensive, indecent or obscene.

This law (section 127 of the Malicious Communications Act 2003) is unique in the sense that the offence is committed upon the act of communication and a person would be committing the offense even in the event that the communication was not received by the intended recipient or was intercepted prior to anyone actually taking offence to the subject matter.

This latest prosecution of Sean Duffy at Reading Magistrates’ Court may signal the beginning of a new line of prosecution by the police of internet related offences,  which will be great news to tens of thousands of UK victims of internet defamation and abuse, and in particular to those vulnerable victims who are not in a financial position to be able to afford expensive civil proceedings.

Can a criminal court judge force a defendant to remove harassing and defamatory internet posts? The answer to this question might be surprising. Read Removing harassment from the internet

Cohen Davis facilicate another online harassment conviction

Yair Cohen, Internet  Law Expert

Author: Yair Cohen

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