Jailed for online abuse: man who mocked child suicide tributes


A man who posted abusive messages on memorial websites dedicated to dead children was jailed for 18 weeks yesterday, and banned from using social networking sites for five years.

Sean Duffy, 25, admitted posting images on Facebook and YouTube mocking the deaths of four children, including Natasha MacBryde, 15, who committed suicide and was found dead on a railway line near her home in Worcestershire in February.

Reading Magistrates' Court heard that following her death, Duffy posted a video with Natasha's face imposed on Thomas the Tank Engine to a Facebook tribute page set up by her brother.

In a statement read to the court, her father Andrew MacBryde said that Duffy's actions had "added to the horror of dealing with the death of their beautiful daughter". Duffy, who had posted the images using false details, was traced by police through information from his internet service provider and arrested.

He admitted to "trolling", a term used to describe the trend of anonymously seeking to provoke outrage by posting insults and abuse online. As well are targeting Natasha MacBryde, the court heard that Duffy posted pictures on Facebook of car crash victim Hayley Bates, 16, of Stoke-on-Trent, who died in September last year. Duffy produced an image of Hayley with crosses on her eyes and red marks on her face.

Duffy also posted a message on an online memorial page to 14-year-old Lauren Drew, who died after suffering an epileptic seizure at her home in Coney Hill, Gloucestershire, in January.

The message, posted on Mother's Day, read "help me mummy, it's hot in hell". The court was told a friend of Lauren's had attempted a drug overdose after wrongly being blamed for the post.

Outside court, Lauren's father Mark Drew said: "Lauren didn't deserve this. Seeing him in court was really hard. I was so angry. This person hid behind the computer screen with no feeling."

Lance Whiteford, mitigating, said Duffy had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at an early age. He said one of the characteristics was an inability to judge the reaction of others. Duffy had struggled with alcohol problems and lived "a miserable existence", he said, adding that although he had one caution for a similar offence, he had no previous convictions. As well as an 18-week jail sentence, Duffy was given a five-year anti-social behaviour order which bans him from social networking sites and prevents him buying devices which allow him access to the internet without police permission.

Anti-bullying charity Beatbullying called the conviction "a monumental move towards bullying and cyberbullying being taken more seriously". Sherry Adhami, a spokeswoman for the charity, said the sentence "sends a strong message... that bullying, whether online or offline, is not going to be tolerated."

A Facebook spokesman said: "The deaths of all the young people who were targeted by Sean Duffy are tragic and our hearts go out to their families and friends. We are absolutely clear that there is no place for trolling on Facebook. It's against Facebook's rules to intimidate or harass others, and we provide everyone with the tools to report such content via specific links across every page of our site."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living