Internet 'troll' jailed for malicious posts about dead youngsters
A man who posted abusive images to online memorials dedicated to dead children was today jailed for 18 weeks.
Jobless Sean Duffy, 25, was also banned from using social networking sites for five years after admitting posting images on Facebook and YouTube mocking the deaths of four children, including 14-year-old Gloucester girl Lauren Drew.
People carrying out such acts online are referred to as internet trolls.
He pleaded guilty to two charges under the Malicious Communications Act in relation to 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde from Worcestershire, who committed suicide and he asked for three further offences to be taken into consideration relating to the other youngsters.
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Reading Magistrates’ Court heard that Duffy, of Grovelands Road, Reading, posted a video on YouTube called Tasha the Tank Engine days after the teenager was found dead on a railway line near her home in Worcestershire.
He also produced disturbing images and a video in relation to Lauren Drew who died in January this year.
The 14-year-old Barnwood Park Arts College girl suffered a suspected epileptic fit at her home in Naunton Road, Coney Hill.
An inquest ruled she had died from natural causes.
After posting the abuse about Lauren he signed off the video with the sickening message: "I don't know why you're all crying down there, it's soaking here in hell."
He also cruelly targeted the mother of Lauren on Mother's Day following her death in January this year.
The court heard how a teenager was then falsely accused of creating the profile and video and subsequently took a drug overdose as a result of the accusations thrown at them.
Speaking outside court, Lauren's father Mark spoke of the devastation it caused her family as they struggled to come to terms with her death.
He said: "We were already having a hard time. Lauren was my only daughter and I worshipped the ground she walked on and this person was hiding behind a computer.
"We're so angry, there's so many excuses but he's hurt us really badly.
"He caused devastation to us and other families, for so many people. It hurts but he sits behind a computer with no feeling.
"We got the best we can hope from it, we're here for all the families. It just hurt having a hard time of it already after Lauren died.''
Her mother Carol added: "We lost our daughter, it was really hard and then we had to deal with all this as well.
"We got out the maximum sentence but there was still no excuse for what he did."
The court was also told that Duffy had produced similar abusive images of Hayley Bates and Jordan Cooper.
Paul Warren, chairman of the magistrates’ bench, said: “This case serves to illustrate the harm and damage done by the malicious misuse of social networking sites.”
Duffy's lawyer Lance Whiteford said he could offer no mitigation but said his Asperger's and alcohol abuse went some way to explaining why he committed the offences.
Duffy was diagnosed from a young age with Aspergers had received specialist education because of hs condition.
But it had led to years of bullying and isolation, including moving out of his parents' home, Mr Whiteford told the court.
He added: "In terms of mitigation there is none. I cannot imagine the trauma and anxiety caused to the families of these horrible, despicable offences.
"The condition leaves the absence of theory of the mind, quintessentially the ability that makes us human.
"He just wasn't aware how horrible the effect was going to be on those who looked at what he had done.
"Drinking alone he leads a very miserable existence, committing offences like this has spread the misery 1,000 fold.''
Previously cautioned for a similar offence in 2009, he described Duffy as living an isolated life and had been the subject of bullying in education and work.
He is currently on care and incapacity benefit.
Duffy was also given a five year ASBO and is prohibited from creating and or accessing social network sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo and Myspace.
But Mr Warren warned the list was not exhaustive with future sites able to be added to the order.
Duffy must also inform police of any phone he purchases with internet access.
Speaking outside court, Lauren's father Mark called for the operators of social networking sites to take more responsibiilty for their content.
He said: "The web is a wonderful thing if used right but as you can see in this case it was used wrongly.
"We were lucky, if that is the right word, he was here in the UK. He could have been in the States and how hard would it have been to track him down then?
"Facebook is very hard to get hold of in this situation. You can report these things but there's no one to actually speak to.
"It comes up, it's removed and then it reappears.
"These days children live on facebook, it's their lives and they're just so vulnerable."