FEMINIST campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez has told how she went through a “terrifying and scarring” experience, after a man and a woman were jailed for sending her abusive messages on Twitter.
Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, bombarded her with rape and death threats last year after she led a successful campaign using social media for a female figure to appear on a Bank of England note.
Sorley, who, according to her lawyer, was also a “victim” of new technology, was jailed for 12 weeks, while “social recluse” Nimmo got eight weeks.
Judge Howard Riddle told them it was “hard to imagine more extreme threats”.
Ms Criado-Perez was subjected to fresh Twitter abuse after yesterday’s sentencing, which led to one user having their account suspended.
She did not attend the hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, but in a statement said that “hearing the outcome has made me realise how tense and anxious I have been feeling”.
She said: “I did not attend the sentencing as 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.”
Ms Criado-Perez added: “I feel immensely relieved that the judge clearly has understood the severity of the impact this abuse has had on me.”
Sorley, from Newcastle upon Tyne, and Nimmo, from South Shields, County Durham, pleaded guilty on 7 January to sending menacing tweets, admitting they had been among the users of 86 separate Twitter accounts from which Ms Criado-Perez had received abusive messages.
University graduate Sorley, who has a 2:1 degree in creative advertising, used Twitter to tell Ms Criado-Perez to “f*** off and die you worthless piece of crap”, “go kill yourself” and “rape is the last of your worries”.
The court heard she had 25 previous convictions, the majority of them for being drunk and disorderly.
While on bail for this case, she committed two offences of assaulting a police officer and is awaiting sentence for an assault on New Year’s Day, the court was told.
Her lawyer, Sean Caulfield, claimed Sorley herself had been a “victim” of new technology, as she did not understand the impact of what she was doing.
He went on: “She understands what it must have been like now. At the time, it seems she did not.
“Maybe there’s an issue about the technology and Twitter and people understanding what it must be like on the other end.
“She is a victim of that, if nothing else – a victim of a lack of understanding of what this new technology can do and how powerful it is.”
The court heard Nimmo had a “moderate learning difficulty”. In his messages, he told Ms Criado-Perez to “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”.
His lawyer Paul Kennedy described him as a “somewhat sad individual” who is “effectively a social recluse”.
Mr Kennedy said that when 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”.
Unemployed Nimmo also targeted his abuse at Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, with the message “The things I cud do to u (smiley face)”, calling her “Dumb blond bitch”.
The judge said the effect of the abuse on Ms Criado-Perez had been “life-changing”.
He said she had described “panic and fear and horror”.
He added that it had also had a “substantial” impact on Ms Creasy, who has had a panic button installed in her home.
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.”
Ms Criado-Perez responded to fresh tweets after the sentencing hearing which repeated some of the threats that led to the prosecution of Sorley and Nimmo.
She wrote: “Thanks 4 support. Have obviously reported to the police. Will keep reporting to police & going thru with prosecutions till msg gets across.”