Student jailed for Muamba tweet loses appeal


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The Independent Online

A student who mocked soccer star Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he collapsed with a heart attack lost his appeal against a 56-day jail term today.

Liam Stacey, 21, of Pontypridd, south Wales, sobbed as he was taken away following the failed sentence appeal hearing at Swansea Crown Court.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams told him he rejected an argument that Stacey had already been punished enough.

He said the Swansea University biology student had admitted an offence, racially aggravated public disorder, of intent.

"He was intending to say what he said and was intending to produce the effect that he did."

Stacey was taken away in tears after being sentenced to 56 days in prison for admitting a racially aggravated public order offence.

He sobbed uncontrollably as a female security guard led him away in handcuffs at Swansea Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

Since then he has spent three days in jail as the debate over whether his punishment was too harsh has raged.

The Swansea University biology undergraduate triggered revulsion when he posted "LOL (laugh out loud). F*** Muamba. He's dead!!!"

The tweet was posted while doctors fought to save Muamba's life and his plight was touching hearts around the world.

The Bolton Wanderers midfielder suffered a heart attack during an early evening FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur on March 17.

Millions watched the match live on TV and were horrified when the soccer star collapsed from what many feared initially was a fatal attack.

While prayers were being said for Muamba worldwide, a drunken Stacey turned to his BlackBerry to post his now infamous tweet.

When that message attracted a barrage of criticism he replied with a vile series of racist torrents.

Support for the jail term was widespread on the day it was handed down, and was subsequently widely debated on Twitter.

But some criticised his punishment and claimed it was politically motivated to make him into an example.

Mr Hobson argued that if the intention of Tuesday's sentence was to make an example of Stacey and make others wary, that had been achieved.

If giving him a "short, sharp, shock," was the object, then three days in jail had achieved that too.

Stacey sat sobbing throughout the hour-long appeal hearing today as he listened to the facts of his case from both sides.

Creighton Harvey, prosecuting, explained to the judge exactly why the initial tweet had been read so widely.

He said that when it was posted "he linked this message to a general internet site called HaHa".

That meant that "anybody using Twitter could access HaHa", he said.

It ensured that while Stacey's Twitter postings might only reach a limited audience, this opened "the prospect of many more people seeing it".

That proved to be a error which would quickly lead to Stacey's arrest at home in Swansea 13 hours after his tweeting torrent.

The court heard today that when criticism and abuse began rolling in to a drunken Stacey he replied in kind for more than an hour.

Mr Harvey said that "some of the responses received by the defendant were not reasonable and not measured".

He added: "One said he hoped that the appellant (Stacey) was tortured to death in prison."

Another "threatened to burn the appellant and his family to death".

Stacey, seeing from photographs attached to tweets he received that some replies were from black people, quickly resorted to racism.

His prolonged activity over the period which he admitted was intentional, was what appeared today to convince the judge to uphold his sentence.