Craig Wallace jailed for Internet abuse of MP

    Craig Wallace jailed for Internet abuse of MP

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    Introduction

    We have covered numerous people who have got into trouble for, and gone to prison because of, abuse they launched on the Internet (some more deserving of punishment than others). We’ll round off 2015 with another one – Craig Wallace, who was sentenced to 8 weeks in prison on 30th December 2015. 

    Facts
    The decision to bomb Syria was certainly a controversial one, which stirred up passions on all sides. Mr Wallace, a 23 years old man who converted to Islam whilst serving a prison sentence for robbery (and has other convictions on top of that it seems) took matters to extreme. 

    This was in the comments section of a Facebook group called the UK Truth Movement (it’s not clear what this group is about – a quick internet search shows that it is a white supremacist group, which would be an odd place for a Muslim convert to post in, but who knows?). 

    It started off by saying that he would show Charlotte Leslie (MP for Bristol North West) “what it’s like to murder innocents”. After this, he wrote “I’m going to smash her windows then drop a bomb on her house while she’s tucked up in bed. You dirty fucking pig-shagging slut“. He returned the next day to add “I’m going to find her and show her what it’s like to murder innocents. You dirty pig-fucking whore“. 

    Sentence
    Mr Wallace presumably pleaded guilty. The news reports don’t state what offence it was, but it was probably the s127 Communications Act one. 

    We’ve looked at these sorts of cases before, and the fact that the CPS policy on prosecuting social media offences tends to be honoured in the breach. What do we make of this one?

    Well, on the one hand there was a threat to the MP to bomb her house. We don’t know if it’s just the two posts above or not, so it is hard to say what element of repetition there was. To my mind, the crucial point would be that this was on a public comment board – it wasn’t to the person herself. In light of that, and the fact that it was to an MP in a political context and was not on the face it of it a viable threat, I would question whether the test for a prosecution was met. 

     
    But, he pleaded guilty so this wasn’t tested. It isn’t clear whether there was a need for a prison sentence (for the reasons above) and we would not be surprised if there was an appeal. What did for Mr Wallace though was probably his previous convictions – these probably ruled out any chance of a suspended sentence. But if the Crown Court decide that the custody threshold is crossed then the 8 week sentence seems fair enough.  

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    Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

    2 COMMENTS

    1. I am going to preface my comment by saying I’m not really commenting on a specific case…

      We have to be careful over convictions like this, now my opinion is pretty irrelevant; but I would put a test in place along the lines of… If this person stood up and made these claims in a pub on a Friday night, would you be concerned / believe them. There is a difference between venting frustration, even showing anger over a decision you feel is wrong, and making a real threat.

      Now I find this individuals comments in bad taste … and any threat against an individual MPs who made a difficult decisions (which I may or may not agree with) is not in any way defensible, but unless he had a means to carry through such a threat, then at the most his behaviour “raises concerns” which could / should be monitored, rather than kept in prison (which appears likely).

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