Shropshire judge warns of risks of naming and shaming of abusers on social media
A Shropshire crown court judge has spoken of the possible risk to public safety from defendants with mental health issues who are ‘named and shamed’ for their crimes on social media.
Resident Judge Peter Barrie’s comments followed the sentencing of a man now being treated for a psychological illness who was identified on the Facebook site Telford Grooming Group.
The defendant Kirt Stevenson, aged 25, took to arming himself with knife and a hammer for “protection” as a result of the posts.
The offences relate to him taking a 15-year-old girl to the Holiday Inn and out to dinner at a Telford pub in 2017 despite a police order preventing him from meeting her.
Stevenson admitted two counts of abducting a child under 16 and was sentenced to a total of eight months in jail suspended for two years.
Judge Barrie told Stevenson: “The substance of the allegations against you were true, nonetheless the way that social media is used in the public shaming of defendants accused of this type of offence is often unhelpful to the public good.
“I suspect those people responsible did not know about your mental health risks and what they may pose to other people and particularly to children.
“I am sure if they had thought about it, the people who posted it would realise their actions were a reckless form of behaviour.”
The judge also told him: “I have heard in court that you regularly have knives with you when going about in public – and sometimes a hammer.
“I want to say to you that sitting here at court I see a lot of cases about knives. If you carry a knife with you, you may feel you have to take it out. If confronted there may be a real risk that you will use it. Anyone carrying a knife risks causing catastrophic injury.”
Mr David Birrell, prosecuting, said Stevenson, of Hayward Avenue, Donnington – who has previous convictions – was made subject to a harbouring notice to keep away from the girl following concerns from her family. But CCTV footage from the hotel and a pub captured them together.
“It is the Crown’s case that the defendant spent time with her in flagrant disregard to the notice," said Mr Birrell.
"There was also some sexual element to their relationship. He asserted that she threatened or blackmailed him to spend time with her. The Crown rejects that claim entirely.
“The messages between them suggest they had a sexual relationship.”
Mitigating, Mr Rob Edwards said his client suffered from paranoia. He conceded that the custody threshold had been passed and asked the court to suspended any sentence to allow the defendant to continue treatment.
In addition to the eight-month jail term suspended for two years, Stevenson was made subject to a mental health treatment order. He also must attend up to 35 rehabilitation activity days to address his thinking skills. He was given a restraining order preventing him from contacting the victim in any way for seven years.
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