A Worcestershire teenager is thought to be the first person in Britain jailed for social network bullying after threatening to kill someone on Facebook.
In jailing 18-year-old Keeley Houghton up for three months in a young offenders institution, District Judge Bruce Morgan described the online bullying of 18-year-old Emily Moore as “warped” and “nasty” after hearing how she had been targeted on the popular site. He stated “Since Emily Moore was 14 you have waged compelling threats and violent abuse towards her. Bullies are by their nature cowards, in school and society. The evil, odious effects of being bullied stay with you for life.”
Houghton sobbed throughout the hearing at Worcester Magistrates today as it was described how she had targeted Miss Moore for four years since they had been at school together, and had left the message on Facebook saying she was going to “murder” her and other abusive messages.
Miss Moore stated “I am so relieved. My blood used to run cold reading her comments. Her abuse consumed my every waking moment for the past four years. I got so scared I couldn’t even turn on the computer.”
As well as the three-month term of detention, Houghton was given a restraining order banning her from contacting Miss Moore in person, via the internet or in any other manner for five years. Read more on the case here
This case is a landmark in the fight against cyberbullying, as Internet users have previously been jailed for harassment on social networking sites but Houghton is the first to be convicted of bullying via the internet.
Emma-Jane Cross, chief executive of charity Beatbullying, said the sentencing was the first of its kind in the UK. She said although cyber-bullying is increasing, the government, networking sites like Facebook and charities should work together to tackle the problem of bullying generally.
“The sentencing of an 18-year-old girl for cyberbullying is the first of its kind in the UK and sets an important precedent. Cyber-bullying is a worrying and fast-growing trend which can be more harmful than typical schoolyard bullying. However, the solution is not to limit young people’s internet access and phone usage, instead, social networking sites like Facebook, along with the Government and charities like Beatbullying, must work together to tackle the real root of the problem – the bullying itself.”
If you or someone you know has been effected by Cyberbullying then visit the Cybermentors site for advice and information.