Justice demanded for North West ‘trolls’

DIGITAL EQUALITY: Internet trolling expert, Dzon, thinks youth rights should be at the heart of the proposed Digital Rights Bill. Courtesy: Steve Powerhill Photography.
DIGITAL EQUALITY: Internet trolling expert, Dzon, thinks youth rights should be at the heart of the proposed Digital Rights Bill. Courtesy: Steve Powerhill Photography.

An Internet trolling expert and general election candidate has demanded justice for two young people affected by trolling.

Dzon, known professionally as Jonathan Bishop, says that Matthew Woods and Georgia Varley deserve justice and that the incidents of trolling relating them were wrongly handled.

20-year-old Matthew Woods of Eaves Lane, Chorley, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail in 2012 for reposting offensive jokes from Sickipedia about Madeline McCann and April Jones. Dzon says his treatment was unfair. “Had the current CPS guidance been applied in Matthew Woods’s case then he would not have been convicted,” he said. “Matthew Woods only intended for his friends to see those offensive jokes and not the families, so under new rules he would not be prosecuted.
In reality the law these rules are based on were thrown out the window in Matthew Woods’s case, with his conviction being down to media and public pressure and not the facts of the case.

Georgia Varley, from Wallasey, was 16 when her memorial website was ransacked by trolls, following her death at Liverpool James Street station in 2011. Her local MP, Steve Rotheram, said that the law could not deal with social media crimes as it was made prior to Twitter and Facebook. Dzon disagrees. “The Malicious Communications Act 1988 was used to prosecute Sean Duffy when he trolled the memorial page of Natasha MacBryde who died at 15, following death at a railway station also,” he said. “It is pure political opportunism to deny Georgia Varley’s family the rights Natasha MacBryde’s had, and Steve Rotheram should be ashamed to put his career ahead of justice for young people and their families.

When Georgia Varley died Steve Rotheram said: “It is difficult to prosecute because trolling is a new phenomenon and does not fall under any offence which already exists.” Since that time the Malicious Communications Act 1988, Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Communications Act 2003 have all been used to deal with trolling. Dzon said Steve Rotheram is out of touch. “Trolling is just the current term for the posting of Internet abuse, which was call flaming in the 1990s and cyber-bullying in the 2002, and was first outlawed with the Telecommunications Act 1984,” he said. “In fact trolling should refer to the posting of provocative messages, but it is only by use, or misuse, by the media that the term has changed.