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.
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“.
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.