Liam Stacey, who was 21 at the time of his flame trolling offence, was convicted for a racially-aggravated public order offence. It followed a tirade of racist abuse on Twitter after he was rebuked by others after he mocked the cardiac arrest of Bolton player, Fabrice Muamba.
Stacey was sentenced to 56 days in jail by district judge John Charles, who summed up saying, “It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life.”
Speaking about the situation, microblogger Joan Smith (@polblonde) said, “a young man’s life has been wrecked and the trolls mocking him on Twitter are basking in self-congratulation.” Smith followed this noting, “Sentimentality and cruelty are frequent companions, and feeling too often takes precedence over rationality in the virtual world.”
John Charles also said to Stacey, “Your comments aggravated this situation. I have no choice but to impose a custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.” This resulted in another microblogger, Dan Jone saying, “Why did one district judge treat Stacey harshly while another gave Cryer a reasonable sentence? The simple answer is that justice has been dragged out of all reason and proportion by the melodramatic public reaction to poor old Muamba’s on-field coronary.”
Andrew Morgan of Swansea University warned that not allowing views on race even if they cause “outrage” is an affront to freedom of expression. He said: ”Once we start being selective about free speech there is no freedom of speech.”