Introduction and Facts
Last year there was a campaign to ensure that at least one woman (other than the Queen) on English and welsh banknotes. This was lead by Caroline Criado-Perez and arose after social reformer (and prison reform activist) Elizabeth Fry lost her place on the back of a £5 note to Winston Churchill.
This campaign was successful and the Bank of England announced that Charles Darwin would be replaced by Jane Austen on the £10 note.
For reasons that are unclear, this triggered a large helping of vitriol and bile directed primarily at Ms Criado-Perez (other people, most notably Stella Creasy, were also targeted).
Some or these were unpleasant and offensive, but others appeared to go further which lead to various arrests. Two people, John Nimmo (25) and Isabella Sorley (23) were charged as a result (it is understood that these two people didn’t know each other).
On 8th January 2014 both pleaded guilty to an offence under the Communications Act.
The sentence was adjourned until 24th January.
What was said – why is it illegal?
For an overview of the offence, see our fact sheet here. The CPS have given guidance as to when they are likely to prosecute, which should also be borne in mind.
In this case it was reported by the BBC that Mr Nimmo had sent 20 tweets to one of the women (believed to be Criado-Perez and four tweets to the other (believed to be Ms Creasy), using six separate Twitter accounts.
Ms Sorley had set up three anonymous Twitter accounts and sent six tweets to Ms Criado-Perez.
An example of the sort of messages that were sent can be seen from the BBC report : “The court heard that one tweet from Sorley started with an expletive and continued: “Die you worthless piece of crap.” She was also told to “go kill yourself”.“
And from Mr Nimmo “In a separate set of abusive messages Nimmo told Ms Criado-Perez to “shut up” and made references to rape followed by “I will find you (smiley face)”.“
What will the sentence be?
Both defendants had their cases adjourned for a pre-sentence report. Ms Soley was told that, due to the nature of the messages, and the fact that she had numerous previous convictions, custody would be inevitable. She has been remanded in custody so it may be that by the time that she is sentenced she has already served her sentence.
Mr Nimmo is of previous good character (he has never been in trouble before) and therefore he is a more likely candidate for a non-custodial sentence. We will return when they are both sentenced on 24th of this month.