Man who falsely accused neighbour of being Jamie Bulger killer escapes jail
A MAN who falsely accused his neighbour of being one of James Bulger's killers has escaped an immediate prison sentence.
Spencer Payne, 44, posted the message saying child killer Robert Thompson was living in a flat above his in Parsons Field, Dedham, Essex, following an ongoing row over a parking space.
Payne admitted sending an offensive electronic message at an earlier hearing at Colchester Magistrates Court and had been warned he could face jail.
But today he was given a 12 week sentence suspended for a year. He must also carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and was made subject to a restraining order.
Prosecutor Sharon Hall told the court that victim Gregory Filby had been left terrified to leave the house and unable to sleep at night for fear of vigilante attacks.
The message gave the precise address and said: "Convicted paedophile Robert Thompson is living in hiding with his wife and baby in the flat upstairs."
Mrs Hall said an off-duty police officer saw the message and reported it. Payne agreed to delete it within 24 hours.
She added: "In a victim impact statement he said he feared for his wife and baby's safety. He was embarrassed to leave the house and was worried he might be stabbed or shot by somebody who believed the message."
Mr Filby was not at home today but his wife said the family were looking to move elsewhere.
A neighbour added: "Since Mr Payne moved in a year ago there have been constant arguments and he is always causing trouble. He makes all our lives hell."
Payne posted the message on December 5 after Mr Filby asked him to turn his music down.
Mrs Hall said one online response, reading "these people should be named and shamed", suggested people had taken it seriously.
She added: "The victim was terrified because he did not know how many people had seen it.
"The police set up a rapid deployment system in case of any vigilante attacks.
"He didn't even want to go to the shops in case people had read the post and believed it.
"He was totally devastated and very scared."
Raif Piggot, in mitigation, said Payne suffered from schizophrenia.
He added: "He accepts his behaviour and the potential harm it could have caused was dreadful.
"This was a neighbourhood dispute which spiralled out of control. By its very nature, there must be two sides to any dispute.
"Fortunately no actual harm was caused."
Magistrate Linda McKenzie warned Filby that, if he offended again or broke his restraining order by approaching the family, he would face further punishment.
She added: "You have caused a great deal of upset to an entirely innocent man and his family."