Twitter 'trolls' Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo jailed for abusing feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez

The pair bombarded Caroline Criado-Perez with offensive tweets

Jennifer Cockerell
Friday 24 January 2014 18:43
Isabella Sorley (left) and John Nimmo have been jailed for abusing a feminist campaigner over Twitter
Isabella Sorley (left) and John Nimmo have been jailed for abusing a feminist campaigner over Twitter

A man and a woman have been jailed for abusing a high-profile feminist campaigner over a social media website.

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard the tweets that Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, posted to Caroline Criado-Perez on Twitter.

Sentencing Ms Sorley, of Akenside Hill, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to 12 weeks in prison and Mr Nimmo, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, to eight weeks, Judge Howard Riddle said it was "hard to imagine more extreme threats".

Among the tweets Ms Sorely directed towards campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez was: "die you worthless piece of crap". Tweets posted by Mr Nimmo included: "I will find you :) ".

On 7 January, Mr Nimmo and Ms Sorley pleaded guilty to sending the tweets, admitting they were among the users of 86 separate Twitter accounts from which Ms Criado-Perez had received abusive messages.

The pair bombarded Ms Criado-Perez with the abusive messages on separate Twitter accounts last year after she used social media to lead a successful campaign for a female figure to appear on a Bank of England note.

Judge Riddle said that the harm threatened against Ms Criado-Perez "must have been intended to be very high".

(From left) Mary Macleod, a Conservative MP, Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, Stella Creasy, a Labour MP, and Caroline Criado-Perez, co-founder of the Women's Room, pose at the Jane Austen House Museum on July 24, 2013.

Mr Nimmo also targeted his abuse at Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, who was also involved in the campaign.

The judge said the effect of the abuse on Ms Criado-Perez had been "life- changing".

She described "panic and fear and horror" at the tweets, he said.

He added that it had also had a "substantial" impact on Ms Creasy, who has had a panic button installed in her home.

Ms Criado-Perez said she did not feel able to attend today's sentencing.

Writing on Twitter, she said: "I didn't feel I could cope with being in court with them - and I didn't feel sure that the judge would understand how terrifying and scarring the whole experience has been for me, which again is not something I could face.

"I feel immensely relieved that the judge clearly has understood the severity of the impact this abuse has had on me."

She said she would be donating the compensation money to charity.

The judge said of the abusive tweets: "The fact that they were anonymous heightened the fear.

"The victims had no way of knowing how dangerous the people making the threats were, whether they had just come out of prison, or how to recognise and avoid them if they came across them in public."

The court heard that university-educated Ms Sorley has 25 previous convictions, the majority for being drunk and disorderly.

While on bail for this case, she also committed two offences of assaulting a police officer and is awaiting sentence for an assault on New Year's Day, the court heard.

During mitigation, Sean Caulfield who defended Ms Sorley, said she herself was a "victim" of new technology as she did not understand the impact of what she was doing,” although he said she understands now.

Paul Kennedy, representing Mr Nimmo who is unemployed, described him as a "somewhat sad individual" who is "effectively a social recluse".

Mr Kennedy said that, when Mr Nimmo's original tweet was responded to and retweeted, it encouraged him to send more messages as he saw it as an "indication of popularity".

"He said that if that had not happened then he would not have pursued this course of action.

Mr Kennedy said Mr Nimmo had no particular opinion on the campaign but had seen the topic trending on Twitter and his lack of experience of social interaction meant he did not know his behaviour was inappropriate.

PA

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