back to article Man charged over alleged April Jones Facebook trolling

Lancashire police arrested a man on Saturday for allegedly offensive remarks he posted on Facebook about missing five-year-old April Jones from Machynlleth, Wales. Officers said they had arrested and later charged Matthew Wood, 20, of Eaves Lane, Chorley, "with sending by means of a public electronic communications network a …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone know what he said?

    See title.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone know what he said?

      NVM - found it. Sick but this comment sums it up :

      "Yes, it's offensive and no, it's not particularly funny, but the police are starting to take the piss a little now with these charges."

      1. Jim 59

        Re: Anyone know what he said?

        I'm no expert but why not just charge the perp with a traditional offence like "threatening and abusive behaviour" or along the lines of "behaving in a way calculated to cause distress and alarm", or similar.

        Rather than think up new offences with overly-specific and slightly woolly definitions like the one in the article. Could it be that the legal establishment has a vested interest in keeping the statute book woolly and enormous ? Can they in fact bill much more time arguing over an uncertain law than applying a clear one ?

        Enormous statute + closed shop = 800 per hour

        Is that how it works ? Surely not !

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anyone know what he said?

          The German statute book is much shorter, clearer and better written, and German lawyers are paid a lot less. Perhaps this is the real reason all those barristers in the Conservative Party oppose closer European integration.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anyone know what he said?

          > Rather than think up new offences with overly-specific and slightly woolly definitions like the one in the article.

          The Communications Act 2003 replaces the Telecommunications Act 1984 which in turn replaced The Telegraph Act 1863, The Telegraph Act 1868, The Telegraph Act 1878, The Post Office Act 1884, etc etc

          The Communications Act bring many of the offences up to date and got rid of many other offences.

          The act itself doesn't just cover criminal offences, it covers everything from OFCOM to S4C (Okay, so S4C should be criminalised).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone know what he said?

      Whats the difference between Mar kBridger and Santa Claus....

      You can probably guess the ending, or look on Slashdot.

    3. Jyve

      Re: Anyone know what he said?

      Slashdot has in the 1st post the offending joke

      http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/10/08/0033233/uk-man-arrested-for-offensive-joke-posted-on-facebook

      And later down in the comments, more detail that the joke was posted to a dedicated group on facebook, so it wasn't just joking amongst known friends, but an attempt to upset. This may/may not influence your opinion on what he did.

      1. C Yates
        Meh

        No different from a Frankie Boyle joke

        Tasteless absolutely, but would Frankie be charged for it?

        1. Ted Treen
          Pint

          Re: No different from a Frankie Boyle joke

          "...a Frankie Boyle joke..."

          Frankie Boyle's a comedian???

        2. Crisp Silver badge

          Re: No different from a Frankie Boyle joke

          Apparently there is a difference when you charge someone a £35 entrance fee.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No different from a Frankie Boyle joke

            @Crisp

            Yes, it's called choice. If you don't like Frankie Boyle's type of humour, you don't pays yer money and you don't go and listen to him.

  2. Infidellic_
    Trollface

    Anyone know what was actually said? None of the news reports mention it. It kind of makes it harder to judge what's acceptable and not when you have no history to go on...

    (Note: I do not condone offensive messages particularly when a young child is involved and in tragic circumstances)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Basically it was a sick joke. There are posts above with links to it.

      Had he posted the joke to his group of friends or just twitted it then I don't think there would be any cause for complaint.

      He did not do this.

      He posted it to a support group for the missing child and his only intention in doing this was to cause upset and distress. He should therefore be prosecuted.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        agreed. If you go watching a frankie boyle sketch then you know you will get jokes like this. You wouldnt simply walk into the village and announce this type of joke to the assembled people helping out so why would you think you can get away with posting it in a support group?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Well if he did say it in the village, his punishment might be a smack in the chops and to be told to bugger off. Which is probably better for both him and society than locking him up, or wasting time and effort going to court.

          Could we not just have an internet policing squad who can track down particularly offensive trolls, go round to their Mum's basements, and just kick them in the nuts? Surely much cheaper all round.

  3. Mike Brown

    im in 2 minds about this.

    On one hand its facebook. Its not real. Its just a social network. I could write that i enjoy dressing up in my wifes underpants, and eating cacti. But that dosent mean its true. Or relevent. Or anything

    On the other hand, people seem to think facebook is real. And that posts actually mean something, and have substance. Which i find quite strange.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: im in 2 minds about this.

      I have a few 'friends' on there that seem to think that they own 'their' page. Asin if I was to post something on there they didn't like, they would act asthough I had defaced their property, the same as graffiti on their house/car whatever.

      I find that very strange..... Just because your names there doesn't mean it is somehow your property.

      Ps... People acting this way seem to be the low IQ chavs with nothing better to do.

      1. Zombie Womble

        Re: im in 2 minds about this.

        "I have a few 'friends' on there that seem to think that they own 'their' page. Asin if I was to post something on there they didn't like, they would act asthough I had defaced their property, the same as graffiti on their house/car whatever."

        That's basic internet protocol/manners. A persons webspace should be treated like an extension of their home whereby the owner sets the rules. So just like someone's living room, if you walk in a start talking crap they have every right to evict your ass.

    2. Wize

      Re: im in 2 minds about this.

      Its not so much what was said, but where they said it.

      Its the difference between telling a Madeleine McCann joke to your peers down the pub one night or telling the same joke to Maddie's parents face to face.

  4. Greg J Preece

    The attitude toward prosecuting trolls should be the same as the attitude used when deciding whether to take them seriously: we have got more important shit to do. Wind-up merchants are not worthy targets for prosecution, and if you start arresting people for being dickheads, you might well have to start with the Met...

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      tell that to the hundreds of people trying to get help on a support forum with trolls laughing in their faces knowing they have no comeback at all. The guy who posted it was 20, not 13 he should have known better.

      1. Greg J Preece

        OK, I will. What, does this forum have no creator, owner or moderator? Last time I checked, FB pages can be moderated. Then why not do it?

        One FB page I'm subscribed to had the admin account hacked, and for several days my news feed filled up with porn. Did I get offended and demand apologies? Nope. Laughed my ass off.

  5. Purlieu

    So how come

    this guy gets arrested but the "Hang Mark Bridger" FB page is allowed ?

    1. Miek
      Linux

      Re: So how come

      The likelihood is that you are the only one to complain about the "Hang Mark Bridger" page

      1. My Alter Ego
        Thumb Down

        Re: So how come

        As far as I'm concerned he's innocent unless (not until, that implies he will be found guilty). There's nothing to be gained by publishing his name (apart from selling newspapers) before a decision has been made. If he's not found guilty his life is still ruined, if he's found guilty he will be well and truly fucked, and rightfully so.

        Remember Jo Yeats' landlord, his name was dragged through the mud, and then the police turned around and said "he's no longer a suspect". The papers didn't use quite so many column inches to publish that.

        We live in a country where people are happy to attack the home of a paediatrician, so anonymity should be a must.

        1. Miek
          Linux

          Re: So how come

          "As far as I'm concerned he's innocent [until found guilty]" -- I quite agree. Although it is quite normal to name the accused in many cases.

          What I find interesting is that the Police seem "quite positive" that they have the evidence they need to prosecute Mark. Considering that this poor girls body has not been found (to the public's knowledge) and the Police have the evidence "they require"; intrigues me. It seems that the only information they have given is the name of the man arrested. Beyond that, everything is speculation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So how come

            @Miek - It's unlikely that the Police are going to lay out all their evidence for the public to scrutinise at the point of charging. However in order to get a prosecution they have to show their evidence to the CPS, who decide if a prosecution is reasonably likely to succeed and/or if it is in the public interest. The CPS seem to think it's jumped both of those hurdles, so it's highly likely that they've got something (undisclosed) which is pretty water tight, what with the lack of a body.

        2. Miek
          Linux

          Re: So how come

          "We live in a country where people are happy to attack the home of a paediatrician, so anonymity should be a must." -- Anonymity or education of course, you have to be somewhat of an idiot to attack a paediatrician instead of a paedophile.

          1. Miffo

            Re: So how come

            "Anonymity or education of course, you have to be somewhat of an idiot to attack a paediatrician instead of a paedophile."

            No - I think it's still Anonymity unless you're saying it's acceptable that people go round attacking offenders based on the crimes they've committed.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So how come

          "As far as I'm concerned he's innocent unless (not until, that implies he will be found guilty)...."

          No, it doesn't. Learn what words actually mean before commenting about what they mean.

      2. Purlieu

        Re: So how come

        Your point would be stronger if this was the actual case

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So how come

        Innocent until proven guilty.

        Lets not forget the story of Chris Jefferies who was investigated in the Joanna Yeates murder enquiry. He had all sorts of stories painting him out to be eccentric and weird only for someone else to be found guilty.

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: So how come

      I thought it strange they should release the man's name before charging him. Someone who is suspected of a crime may not actually end up being charged with it. However, once he was charged I think it's right and proper they should release his name.

      I also don't believe the press release names for altruistic reasons. There have been far too many times when some local weirdo / eccentric has found themselves under a media spotlight simply for the misfortune of merely living in the vicinity of the victim. Look how many suspects Sky trotted out for Madelaine McCann for example or that Bristol case.

  6. JeeBee
    Facepalm

    Published on the Find April Facebook page.

    I read elsewhere that the main aspect of this case is that the guy posted the offending joke on the Find April Facebook page, not on his own page.

    As such it turned from being a distasteful pub joke into something far worse.

    If he had just posted it on his own page, or said it in a pub, it wouldn't have been a problem, the guy's peers could have cut him down, or laughed in a "that's so wrong" way, like people do with such jokes.

    1. aj87

      Re: Published on the Find April Facebook page.

      According to the comments here... http://www.reddit.com/r/unitedkingdom/comments/113ow3/man_arrested_for_posting_a_joke_about_april_on/ (which by the way for anyone looking to be outraged contains the joke).

      The guy posted it to his own wall, someone screen capped it and reposted it to a find April group.

      If you ask me these kind of distasteful jokes have always made their way around after something like this, it used to just be by SMS. The person who turned it from just a joke to posting it on a group should be the one arrested, I could have found similar stuff on Sickipedia, but you'd be pretty callous to screencap it and post it on a group.

      1. Wize

        Re: Published on the Find April Facebook page.

        Details seem to be a bit sketchy.

        Some are saying he posted it on their page himself.

        Others say he posted on his own page and someone sent a screen shot.

        Anyone know the truth?

        1. aj87

          Re: Published on the Find April Facebook page.

          Yes, each side of the story seems to be hearsay, but I was only seeing the side saying he posted it himself to the group which seems callus, if true I guess he deserves a slap, if however it was a joke reposted to set the lynch mob (Creating groups called Hang badger even before he was charged) on him then I feel sorry for the guy, as he said no worse than I saw after Jackson's accusations came out or Madeline went missing. Don't remember anyone that text me the bad taste jokes getting arrested.

      2. Chris007
        FAIL

        Re: Published on the Find April Facebook page.

        "The guy posted it to his own wall, someone screen capped it and reposted it to a find April group."

        *If* this is true then nothing more than a slap on the wrist should happen to this person as the post was to his own facebook page and then somebody else did a screen capture and posted it to the April group.

        This vigilante behaviour has to be stopped

  7. Shane8
    Coat

    US Laws coming to the UK...

    "Watch Your Comments: Arizona Law Could Punish Trolling With 25 Years"

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2012/04/03/watch-your-comments-arizona-law-could-punish-trolling-with-25-years/

    Ill get my coat...going on holiday where these laws don't exist!

  8. James 100
    FAIL

    The really sick joke here...

    ... is the police, arresting somebody for telling a sick joke on Facebook.

    Seriously, if they can find the resources to arrest somebody for the "crime" of telling a sick joke, either they have far too many resources or completely screwed priorities - and either way, that law needs to be deleted outright.

    1. pixl97

      Re: The really sick joke here...

      Tyranny, coming in April.

      “Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

      ― John Stuart Mill

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The really sick joke here...

        @Piux97: Did you really just repeat what was getting someone prosecuted and generally accepted as a pretty repugnant comment.

        Not acceptable.

        1. Greg J Preece

          Re: The really sick joke here...

          @AC....Which comment are you reading??

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The really sick joke here...

            @Greg:

            The first line of pixl97's post is a reworking of the "punchline" to the "joke" which landed a man in prison.

  9. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Freedom of speach means the good, the bad and the evil.

    Bl oody Plod enforcing the Nanny state, again.

    Far better, and cheaper, to request posts in extreme bad taste be discretely removed by the social web site and the Username deleted.

    The results are the same but the free publicity for the poster is removed.

    Of course this particular dummy should have used his brain and created a new Username at an InterNet cafe and he would have a Sunday at home.

    This very much like the blow the airport up incident, he chose the wrong target (Heathrow was better) and all that legal claptrap that followed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Freedom of speach means the good, the bad and the evil.

      It would be interesting to see you maintain your stand if a similar joke were directed at your child, say, a couple of days after her murder.

      1. Greg J Preece

        Re: Freedom of speach means the good, the bad and the evil.

        It would be interesting to see you maintain your stand if a similar joke were directed at your child, say, a couple of days after her murder.

        Bullshit emotive argument that should never, ever be used when making laws. The absolute worst person to ask about any preventative laws is the parent of the deceased.

        You should have no right to freedom from offence, not least because any attempt to legislate what is and isn't offensive is almost guaranteed to be either unobjective, or abused.

        If we arrest people for offending others, then what about Draw Muhammad Day? People seem pretty offended by that, but most of us in the UK are OK with offending those people. Odd that, isn't it?

        1. Anonymous IV

          Re: Freedom of speach means the good, the bad and the evil.

          Indeed, hence the maxim "hard cases make bad law." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_cases_make_bad_law

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Draw Muhammad Day

          I'm not offended by that in the slightest.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Freedom of speach means the good, the bad and the evil.

      There is no absolute freedom of speech within the UK. We have the right to free speech with the exception of threatening, abusive or insulting speech, or behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace. There are many other exceptions as well, covering incitement, terrorism, and court cases, among others.

  10. Justice
    Thumb Down

    Getting a bit silly...

    I've read the joke. It is indeed tasteless and offensive.

    But no more so than some of Frankie Boyles material.

    To arrest the guy for it is a gross misinterpretation of the communications act.

    Perhaps the police should spend their time arresting REAL criminals instead of spending long hours on FaceBook and Twitter looking for things that offend people.

  11. nigel 15
    FAIL

    Dear Reg

    Have some stones and report the actual joke.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear Reg

      Yes, I'm sure reporting something that someone is being prosecuted for would be a sensible thing to do...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've seen it on Slashdot. It *is* rather offensive, and so I think that as the law stands this bloke is now screwed.

    The law is ridiculous though. It seems completely insane that you can be prosecuted for saying something offensive purely because it is transmitted through a public electronic communications network.

    Facebook and Twitter are privately owned.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1
      Stop

      Offensive telecoms

      This has been the case since God was in short trousers. Under the same legislation (Communications Act 2003) it's a criminal offence in the UK to use indecent or obscene language even in a person-to-person telephone call.

      "A person is guilty of an offence if he—

      (a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

      (b) causes any such message or matter to be so sent."

      Source [legislation.gov.uk]

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sick.

    Having seen the "Joke" this guy needs psychiatric care, preferably the type that involves Electro-Convulsive Therapy!

    1. PaulWizard
      Thumb Down

      Re: Sick.

      Please understand that although this joke is sick, that is it's intent. Jokes like this are intended to shock, go too far, make the recipient draw breath etc. There is an audience for these jokes, that's why Jimmy Carr is so popular. Your threshold for this sort of thing is clearly much lower than a large number of people. *IF* this chap posted this publicly on Facebook, then he should get his wrist slapped. If it was a private/limited audience message (if there is such a thing on FB) then the person who reposted it should be slapped. Neither are mentally ill, just not too bright for not limiting the audience to people who won't find a joke offensive.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sick.

      Jokes like these have always existed and always will. Yes they are in bad taste but they fade away as soon the event does. You cannot lock people up for cracking jokes no matter how bad they currently are.

      Sometimes I feel like destroying my ears and eyes to protect myself from a possible jail sentence in the future. Soon it will be illegal to breath because a child/someone famous drowns.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    The U.K. has gone mad

    The U.K. is collectively suffering from mental illness. Facebook should allow owners of these 'victim' pages to moderate any material. It's not a Police (State) matter. What the hell are these soldiers in Afghanistan dying for and what 'freedom' are they fighting for?

  15. PaulWizard
    WTF?

    Does this meen...

    That everyone posting jokes (much like this one) on sickipedia is going to be arrested? He probably just repeated it from there anyway.

    1. Julz

      Re: Does this meen...

      You can do both at once:

      http://www.facebook.com/Sickestandfunniestjokes

  16. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    We've always had a history of making sick jokes in the UK following some disaster or unfortunate incident. The good ones make you smile despite the subject matter - the bad ones just make you say to yourself "tosser" and that's it.

    This joke and the tosser who posted the "joke" definitely fall into the latter category. But to go as far as arresting him with a view to prosecution is itself a sick "joke". Can the police be prosecuted for wasted police time? Cos they bloody well should be.

    It is a sad state of affairs when the Police waste their time and tax payers money persuing something as trivial as posting a stupid joke/comment. The most that should have happened, is a request to FB for the removal of the offending post.

    Way to go plod - and they wonder why the public has so little respect for them these days...

  17. fiddley
    Facepalm

    I think we should have an "I'm Spartacus" moment over these stupid arrests. The guy has possibly suffered a grevious lack of judgement, so he gets arrested, charged (!) and life very seriously screwed over, all for a few peoples hurt feelings. Whatever happened to Sticks & Stones may break my bones...? Couldn't they have just given him a caution?

    So who's going to repost the joke on facebook first? I'll do it straight after you. Promise.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Well I won't, as I'm definitely not Spartacus. However, I will correct a glaring error in your post, it's in the form of a misquote. The actual quote is:

      Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me!

  18. ukgnome
    Unhappy

    2 things

    1. This "man" is obviously a sick little fecker, with poor judgement and poor taste. No doubt he is not fully aware of the laws he is breaking, because he's an eejit. Also, he may of had his own privacy violated as someone apparently screen grabbed his tasteless wall post and posted it on the tribute page. Truly these kinds of Jeremy Kyle show fodder should just fecking do one.

    2. I have an issue with facebook tribute pages. The whole idea of liking a page dedicated to cancer or whatever else I find offensive. It is meant to be social media. These pages don't make me feel particularly social. I am not saying that they should be off the web, as they do have a valid place. But i don't want to be reminded that the worlds a fecked up screwy place when I'm trying to find out what my wife wants for tea.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: 2 things

      but I bet you wouldnt go to the tribute page and start posting sick jokes though. You can simply ignore facebook pages you know.

      Do you have much luck finding your wifes eating habits from facebook?

      1. ukgnome

        Re: 2 things

        You are indeed correct, I wouldn't deface a tribute page with sick jokes. I do find it odd that people do. I guess I was brought up and not dragged up.

        And sadly no, I am still at a loss as to what the wife wants for supper.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Publishing and the web

    People should be educated that what they put on the web is effectively publishing and subject to different rules/laws than those that govern the ubiquitious chat with your mates down the pub.

    It's probably buried page 398 of FB's T's&C's.

    I once made an off-colour comment on the web in an email to a closed group once that did (well, contributed) a fair bit of damage to a company, fortunately public( and stakeholder) opinion was on my side and I got away with it, but it certainly taught me a lesson the hard way. This was 12 years ago and the email is still on the web.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lynch mob mentality

    I'm more offended that the various Hang Mark Bridgers facebook groups have more than 100,000 'likes'

    http://m.facebook.com/search/?refid=7&m_sess=soBDPKkT-TlRWlP66&search=&query=Hang+Mark+Bridger

    Most of those comments I find rather offensive; I wonder if the police will be doing anything about them ?

    Lynch mob mentality

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Lynch mob mentality

      I just tried to go to that link so I could be offended and report it to the Police, but it won't let me in - it appears to be password protected.

    2. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Lynch mob mentality

      The Pedofinder General, by the power vested in him by knee jerk British Tabloids, has found him guilty in the court of public opinion.

  21. Mike Taylor
    Thumb Up

    Found guilty

    Sent down for three months. Which included time off for admitting guilt.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/oct/08/april-jones-teenager-jailed-facebook

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Found guilty

      I really am torn about this one. That the guy is a waste of oxygen isn't in much doubt, but 12 weeks? It does seem like he posted it on his own page..

      "A man who posted "despicable" comments on his Facebook page" rather than on the group page for April Jones.

      Being able to charge, convict and sentence someone so quickly for sick comments is a worrying state of affairs for everyone, even if they have nothing to hide (tm).

      1. Jonathan Richards 1
        FAIL

        Quote> It does seem like he posted it on his own page.

        It's not about where it ends up... it's how it got there.

        The Communications Act 2003 regulates communications networks in the UK. The guy committed an offence by sending the message over a public electronic communications network. The offence was committed at the moment he clicked on 'Submit', and he would have been equally guilty even if he had been putting it into entirely private storage. In that event, though, he would have been much less likely to have been detected. Actually publishing your offending material just makes it easy for the courts.

  22. chris 17 Bronze badge
    Stop

    to those that say facebook isn't real, time to get in the 21st century. writing nasty comments or sick jokes about someone or their loved ones and placing them in a place where they, their friends, family, neighbours etc will see it and the affected person will be humiliated and upset by it is just plain evil & cruel. That is REAL, and the hurt it causes is REAL.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      facebook is as real as you want it.

      to a troll, facebook is fiction.. time to get with the times.6

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