Wednesday 13 December 2017

Woman admits tweeting feminist: 'Rape is least of your worries'

Caroline Criado-Perez
Caroline Criado-Perez
Isabella Sorley, 23, from Newcastle, arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court, London
John Nimmo leaves City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London

Martha Linden

A high profile feminist and a Labour MP were subjected to "menacing" messages on Twitter following a campaign to ensure a woman featured on British bank notes, a court heard.

Caroline Criado-Perez, a 29-year-old student, was told to "f*** off and die you worthless piece of crap" and "go kill yourself" and "rape is the last of your worries" by 23-year-old Isabella Sorley in a series of tweets, Westminster Magistrates' Court in central London was told.

She also sent the message to Ms Criado-Perez: "I've only just got out of prison and would happily do more time to see you berried!!(sic) #tenfeetunder not scared at what you will do!"

In a separate set of messages sent to Ms Criado-Perez, John Nimmo, 25, told her "shut up bitch" and "Ya not that gd looking to rape u be fine" followed by "I will find you (smiley face)" and then the message "rape her nice ass", the court was told.

Nimmo also targeted Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, with the message "The things I cud do to u (smiley face)", calling her "Dumb blond bitch."

Alison Morgan, prosecuting, said Ms Criado-Perez had received abusive messages "of one type or another" from some 86 Twitter accounts including those accounts attributed to both Nimmo and Sorley.

"Caroline Criado-Perez has suffered life-changing psychological effects from the abuse which she received on Twitter," she told the court.

"In particular, the menacing nature of the tweets sent by both defendants caused her significant fear that they would find her and carry out their threats," she said.

She added that Ms Creasy had also suffered a "substantial impact" as a result of "these events."

Nimmo, from Moreland Road, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, and Sorley, from Akenside House, Akenside Hill, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, pleaded guilty to sending "menacing" tweets at a hearing at the court.

Ms Morgan said "extreme language" used by Nimmo and Sorley had caused "substantial distress or fear".

She said Ms Criado-Perez had described the tweets sent to her by Sorley as "horrifying and frightening and did scare me more than some of the others have".

The tweets sent by Nimmo were "menacing" to Ms Criado-Perez in their reference to rape, his message that the "police will do nothing", the suggestion that she knew him and the threat that he would "come and find" her, she said.

"It is alleged that in July of 2013 both these defendants sent menacing messages via Twitter to the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and also to Stella Creasy, the MP for Walthamstow," Ms Morgan said, opening the case against the defendants.

"The background to these events was that prior to July of 2013 Caroline Criado-Perez led a campaign to ensure that a female figure appeared on a Bank of England note. Her campaign was conducted in a number of ways including using social media.

"It was supported by a number of high profile figures. The campaign was eventually successful in that on July 24 2013 the Bank of England announced that Jane Austen would appear on a bank note in the future."

She said following this announcement, Ms Criado-Perez had appeared widely in the media and had been congratulated publicly by a number of high profile figures on Twitter, including Ms Creasy, she said.

In the aftermath of this publicity, a "significant" number of offensive tweets were received into Ms Criado-Perez's Twitter account from "many" Twitter users involving some 86 accounts including those attributed to Nimmo and Sorley, she said.

Nimmo was released on conditional bail, with Sorley, whose previous convictions include being drunk and disorderly on 21 occasions, remanded in custody.

The pair are due to be sentenced on January 24 at Westminster Magistrates' Court. Sorley was warned by District Judge Howard Riddle that it was "almost inevitable" that she would receive a jail sentence.

He warned Nimmo, described to the court as a "social recluse" who "rarely leaves his house", that "all options" as to sentencing remained open.

Ms Morgan said Sorley had been arrested in October 2013 at her home in Newcastle.

In an interview with police she had admitted sending some of the tweets suggesting that she had been "off my face on drink" at the time, Ms Morgan told the court.

Paul Kennedy, representing Nimmo, described him as a "somewhat sad individual" with "some level of learning difficulties" who had suffered bullying at school.

"He is a social recluse, that is exactly what he is really, he rarely leaves the house but to empty the bins," he said.

"He sits in the house 24/7, he has nothing to do, he claims benefits, he is a somewhat sad individual."

Nimmo was described in court as of "previous good character."

In a statement tweeted after the hearing, Ms Criado-Perez thanked people for their support, but warned that Sorley and Nimmo represented a "small drop in the ocean" to the amount of abuse she received in July and August.

She said: "I am hugely relieved that these two defendants have pleaded guilty, meaning that there is no need for a trial and for the whole process to drag on longer - it has already dragged on for almost six months, with all the attendant anxiety you'd expect.

"This is not a joyful day; these two abusers reflect a small drop in the ocean, both in terms of the amount of abuse I received across July and August, but also in terms of the abuse that other women receive online - women who have little to no recourse to justice.

"However, I hope that for some people who are watching, this conviction will be a warning: online abuse is not consequence-free. I hope that some people watching will think twice before abusing someone else. There is not much else I can say given there are other cases still on-going."

The court heard that Ms Creasy responded to Nimmo's message of "Dumb blonde bitch" with the message "That's dumb Dr blonde bitch to you". "Love it at least u can have a laugh", Nimmo responded, to which Ms Creasy said: "I'm not having a laugh, I'm cataloguing your vile conduct #takebacktwitter"

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