The nine, who included a female teacher, had posted messages on social networks accusing the 19 year victim old of being a “money-grabbing slut” who had made up the attack.
Louise Mensch, the former Tory MP, who reported the internet bullies, said the judge’s lenient sentence “sickened her”.
The nine were fined only £624 each despite the victim being traumatised and the footballer, Ched Evans, being jailed for five years. The crime carries a maximum penalty £5,000.
The judge said that the nine posted the messages about her with “deliberate malice” after the 23-year-old Wales and Sheffield United striker was jailed. Evans is currently appealing against his sentence.
The defendants appeared at a court in Prestatyn North Wales charged with publishing material likely to lead members of the public to identify the complainant in a rape case.
They defendants said they did not know that identifying a rape victim was a criminal offence.
However, despite the stricter options at this disposal district judge Andrew Shaw went for the most lenient approach he could take.
The outcome will make many ponder again the inequity of law relating to social media abuse and ask whether or not we can we police the Twitter trolls when the reaction from the law is wildly inconsistent.
In July #IAmSpartacus tweeter Paul Chambers rightly won his appeal over a joke bomb tweet at Robin Hood airport, which he had tweeted he would blow-up when clearly there was no intention or threat.
A joker who hurt no one gets sentenced to prison and has two years of his life swallowed up while people who traumatise a teenage rape victim get away with a paltry fine. It doesn’t add up.
Likewise Liam Stacey was jailed for 56 days after he posted racist tweets about the Bolton Wanders player Fabrice Muamba. Offensive and wrong yes, but two months in prison? No.
In both of those cases there should have been fines, but in the case of naming a rape victim the law should have been extended to its fullest reach. It seems to have barely lifted a finger.
In part this seems to date back to last year when Twitter made a mockery of celeb super injunctions as hundreds tweeted details of various cases.
That sent the message that on Twitter and Facebook, and elsewhere on social media, that you can get away with saying anything online. This ruling seems to underscore that impression.
It’s a situation that needs to be taken quickly in hand before more cases like this ruin the lives of others.
Ignorance is not a defence
At the very least the government should be running a campaign warning people that ignorance is not a defence and telling them they will be prosecuted and properly punished.
I’m sure some of those who tweeted are regretting naming the girl raped by Evans not least because they will all quickly come to understand that their names will be long linked with this crime online.
One of those who named the victim outed the victim on Facebook in what he accepted was “an act of utter stupidity”.
While another who retweeted a comment calling the victim a “money-grabbing slut” later told police that she had been an idiot and wanted to apologise to the victim.
All a bit late. People need to be reminded to engage their brain and those who have trouble with that need to be informed and warned of the consequences they face.