UK court jails man for trolling online tribute pages

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Manchester Magistrates' court in the UK yesterday jailed a self-described online troll for posting messages to Facebook tribute pages. Colm Coss, 36, was sentenced to eighteen weeks in prison after admitting breaching the Communications Act of 2003.

Coss targeted a page in tribute to the late Jade Goody, made famous by reality TV show Big Brother, as well as a page dedicated to young Liverpool dog-attack victim John Paul Massey. Overseas deceased were also targeted, with Coss trolling tributes to a Canadian murder victim, an Australian road accident fatality and a dead US citizen.

Coss was arrested after he sent typed letters to neighbours containing photographs of himself and explaining he was "a troll". Although he initially refused to cooperate, Coss later wrote to a police officer and admitted posting the messages, in some of which he said he had had sex with the bodies of the deceased or claimed to have engaged in fictional acts of paedophilia.

"The harm and upset that this can cause is obvious," according to Paul Mitchell, prosecuting Coss. Coss was charged with 'sending malicious communications that were grossly offensive', entering a guilty plea last month. Yesterday, defence lawyer Leanne Press sought investigation of her client's psychiatric state prior to sentencing, arguing he "had a history of mental health issues." However, magistrates decided he could be sentenced without this.

Magistrate Pauline Salisbury noted sentencing guidelines of twelve weeks imprisonment, but said the offences were serious enough to warrant 26 weeks. Eight weeks were shaved off the sentence owing to his guilty plea.