On 27th August 2015, Christopher Spivey, a 52 year old from Essex, narrowly escaped joining this list when he received a suspended sentence for his trolling.
Mr Spivey seems someone who holds somewhat unorthodox views. He ‘made a series of comments on social media‘ saying that the murder of Lee Rigby ‘was made up to provoke anti-Islamic feelings.‘
In addition, he posted photos and the addresses of members of Lee Rigby’s family and contacted his sister accusing her husband of being the same person as Mr Rigby.
He appeared to have wider delusions, posting on a website expressing “doubts as to whether the Tunisia beach massacre and the Glasgow bin lorry deaths happened“.
Mr Spivey was convicted after a trial, and is still maintaining his innocence (although it is not clear what his defence was).
There were, it seems, two offences – harassment and sending a grossly offensive message (probably under s127 Communications Act 2003).
These are both summary only offences to which the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines apply (pages 70 and 34 respectively). On the Guidelines, the harassment probably merits a community order and the messages a similar sentence.
It would seem to me that the harassment is far more serious and clearly passes the custody threshold – it was targeted at members of Lee Rigby’s family and involved direct contact.
The messages posted on Facebook, though idiotic and offensive, do not appear to me to be necessarily beyond what is acceptable in a free society/protected speech under Art 10. On its own, it would not merit more than a community order (if a prosecution were necessary).
Mr Spivey was sentenced to 6 months, suspended for two years on conditions that weren’t included in the news reports. Although the decision to suspend means that there would not be any real complaint about the sentence, 6 months is the maximum sentence that could be passed and even without credit for a plea of guilty this seems a little on the high side.
But Mr Spivey has already stated that he will be appealing the conviction, so the Court will probably be looking at the sentence again in due course …