In a fresh warning to be careful what you post online, this week saw two individuals plead guilty to sending threatening tweets to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. Isabella Sorley, 23 and John Nimmo, 25, from Newcastle and South Shields respectively, pled guilty in Westminster Magistrates Court to sending messages of a menacing character by a public electronic communications network, contrary to the Communications Act 2003. Sentencing will take place later this month with Sorley being remanded in custody until such time; Nimmo received bail.
Caroline Criado-Perez was subjected to the online abuse following her successful campaign to have Jane Austen appear on the new £10 bank notes. The campaign was prompted by the Bank of England’s announcement that Winston Churchill would be replacing Elizabeth Fry, the only female presence on bank notes, on the new £5 notes. The announcement of the campaign’s success was hailed “a brilliant day for women” by Criado-Perez, however others were less than impressed… Criado-Perez was subsequently subjected to a barrage of abusive tweets to her Twitter account including threats of rape and violence.
This week’s events follow previous similar instances which highlight that online abuse will not be taken lightly and could result in criminal action. Notably a 17 year old was arrested in summer 2012 following abusive tweets sent to Tom Daley after he failed to win a medal in the 10 metre synchronised diving event at the London Olympics. Abuse including claims Daley had let his late father down and threats of drowning resulted in the responsible tweeter receiving a harassment warning.
Under s127 of the Communications Act 2003, the sending by means of a public electronic communications network of a message or other matter which is offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing is an offence which could result in up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £5000. Clearly individuals should not presume that they can hide behind their computer should they choose to post abuse online…