A man was jailed yesterday for posting videos and messages mocking the deaths of teenagers including a girl who threw herself under a train.
Sean Duffy, 25, wrote abusive messages on Facebook tribute pages and even uploaded videos to YouTube taunting the youths and their families, as part of the practice known as “trolling”.
I love the scare quotes. The Telegraph only heard of trolling? They ought to read their comments occasionally.
Among his victims was Natasha MacBryde, 15, who died when hit by a passenger train near her home in Bromsgrove, Worcs, on Feb 14. The next day Duffy posted comments including “I fell asleep on the track lolz” on the Facebook tribute page created by her brother James, 17.
I take exception to the use of the word “victim” here. The victims were her friends and family. And frankly Facebook “tribute pages” are mawkish beyond belief. Well almost beyond those bunches of posies you get around RTA sites. If I’m honest about the dark angels of my spirit then I think “I fell asleep on the track lolz” is actually quite witty (I personally hate “fell asleep”). OK, that said this was vile behaviour from Duffy.
Five days after her death he created a YouTube video called “Tasha the Tank Engine” featuring Natasha’s face on a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine.
OK, he’s completely nucking futz. Call me a cad but if he committed a genuine crime (being vile isn’t a crime in itself – if it was I could turn-up with a warrant at the Palace of Westminster with hundreds of names on it – “Sir, we just found Ed Balls clambering over George Osborne trying to get out of the window of the gents!” “Excellent work sergeant I shall deal with this one personally!” “Not sure that’s a good idea – he has soiled himself and is crying like a girl – well, more wailing to be honest”. “Give him to Hopkins then”. “Right you are sir!”.
That fantasy of mine over…
… the only material crime I can see is copyright violation. And isn’t that a civil matter anyway?
There were others, such as Lauren (who died following an epileptic fit)…
One of Lauren’s friends was unfairly blamed for the hate campaign and took a drug overdose.
That is getting towards a crime but that is because it is getting towards material harm to person or property… It’s certainly vile though – utterly vile. I will also take issue with the Telegraph staffer over the use of “unfairly”. “Inaccurately” would be correct.
Duffy also posted abusive messages online about Hayley Bates, 16, from Staffordshire, who was killed in a car crash last September, and Jordan Cooper, 14, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, who was stabbed to death by his uncle in February.
Duffy, from Reading, who did not know any of his victims [I bet you guessed that], pleaded guilty to two counts of sending malicious communications relating to Natasha at an earlier hearing. Yesterday he asked for three other cases of Facebook trolling to be taken into consideration at Reading magistrates’ court. Paul Warren, the chairman of the bench, sentenced him to 18 weeks for each of the offences to run concurrently, the maximum sentence.
I emphasise that because I wonder if I’m carrying out the same offence right now. I mean if Ed Balls is reading this now is he upset? Is this a “malicious communication”? Am I typing my way into Strangeways?
The court heard that Duffy, who is unemployed, suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and lived a “miserable existence” drinking alcohol alone at home.
Duffy was also given a five year Anti-Social Behaviour Order and was prohibited from accessing websites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo and Myspace.
Now I’ll twist it. Duffy is clearly a man more to be pitied than laughed at. But in what way does that sentence protect anyone? They locked him up because they clocked he’s a “nutter”. Actually really they banged him up because he’s scarily differently normal (or whatever) and he violated grieving but… should that be illegal as such? As I think I’ve said being vile isn’t and shouldn’t be against the law. Now I know he’s a loner with a mental health problems I’m doubly outraged. I was outraged at the jailing of a man for essentially saying things. But if he is mentally ill then…
I say mentally ill but that’s a tricky issue in this case. Asperger’s syndrome is notoriously difficult to diagnose. It is similar to autism. It is frequently connected to exceptional mathematical ability. Sir Isaac Newton is very commonly regarded as an Asperger’s “sufferer”. It tends to go with a level of monomania. In Newton’s case (when asked how he did what he did he replied something along the lines of, “By thinking upon things until nothing else mattered”) this produced profound mathematics and physics. In this case something truly obnoxious. It raises fundamental questions as to personal responsibility though.
Certainly I would never section Newton for being “odd” though he was very “odd”. Whatever “odd” means. What about Duffy? Well, he clearly doesn’t deserve the knighthood or the State Funeral with an epitaph by Alexander Pope but he deserves help and frankly this sentence is neither something nor nothing. The state has neither addressed his needs nor effectively took him out of circulation. The state could have offered treatment or it could have chucked away the key. It did neither. It is not Mr Duffy’s friend and it ain’t yours either.