A ‘SOCIAL recluse’ from South Shields who bombarded a women’s campaigner with vile Twitter abuse has today been jailed.
John Nimmo, 25, from Moreland Road, South Shields, was given an eight-week sentence at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
He targeted women’s campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, over a campaign to ensure a woman featured on British bank notes.
His messages to her on the online social networking site included threats to rape her.
Co-defendant Isabella Sorley, 23, from Newcastle, who also used Twitter to abuse Ms Criado-Perez, was jailed for 12 weeks.
They both pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to sending menacing tweets.
Alison Morgan, prosecuting, said at the earlier hearing that the “extreme language” used by Nimmo and Sorley had caused “substantial distress or fear”.
“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.”
Sorley was arrested in October 2013 at her home and admitted to police that she had sent some of the tweets, suggesting she had been “off her face” on drink at the time.
Paul Kennedy, representing Nimmo, said: “He is a social recluse, that is exactly what he is really, he rarely leaves the house but to empty the bins.
“He sits in the house 24/7, he has nothing to do, he claims benefits, he is a somewhat sad individual.”
Sentencing the pair today, Judge Howard Riddle said it was “hard to imagine more extreme threats”.
He said that, despite the defendants’ claims, the harm threatened against Ms Criado-Perez “must have been intended to be very high”.
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 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.
Sean Caulfield, defending Sorley, said she herself was a “victim” of new technology, as she did not understand the impact of what she was doing.
“She understands what it must have been like now. At the time, it seems, she did not,” Mr Caulfield said.
“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.”
Mr Kennedy, for Nimmo, said that when his 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.
“He believed at that time that there was a conversation and he was engaging in that conversation.”
Mr Kennedy said 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.