We have looked previously at various cases of people convicted of sending abusive messages on the internet (Twitter being the general medium of choice). On 2nd September 2014 Peter Nunn was convicted of a s127 Communications Act 2003 offence – sending “a message … that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character“.
The case has been adjourned for sentence to the 29th September. Mr Nunn has been warned that he faces a prison sentence.
What had he said?
As is often the case with these sorts of offences, we don’t have the exact details. We know that he re-tweeted “messages threatening to sexually assault Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy“.
A few samples were given – “One message posted described the “best way to rape a witch” … He also wrote: “If you can’t threaten to rape a celebrity, what is the point in having them?”
It seems that the defence was that “he was “satirising” the Twitter backlash to the campaign.” This seems a little bit optimistic. I imagine that there were also arguments about Art 10 ECHR and freedom of speech.
Why did he have a trial – why not plead guilty?
Well, that’s his right (although he may well have been advised to plead guilty). It is actually good to see someone have a trial and argue the point about freedom of speech – it’s an important thing that needs to be addressed, and hopefully (for our sake) it will be appealed higher so that we can get some further guidance from the higher courts as to the limits of free speech.
In a case like this, it is not one message that makes the offence – it is the combination of all of them. Which is why it is very hard to judge whether he should have been convicted. The two comments quoted above are clearly unpleasant, but equally clearly fall below what is criminal.
It’s the nature of the beast that it may not be possible for the media to fully report the tweet – although there are ways to do it, and the media could be a bit better in doing this.
Will he go to prison?
He probably should. I say this not because I think he should go to prison (I don’t think he should), but given that Ms Storey and Mr Nimmo went to prison for similar offending on a plea of guilty Mr Nunn should probably also (especially without the credit for a plea of guilty).
Having said that, there could be all sorts of mitigation for Mr Nunn that will be put forward which may result in a non-custodial sentence. Also, the amount of time that has passed since the incident may mean that there is less publicity, and less pressure for a custodial sentence.
We will come back to this at the end of the month …