|Nine people who illegally named a woman raped by a footballer were told to pay her just £624 each in compensation yesterday.The nine, who included a woman teacher, posted messages on Twitter and Facebook accusing the 19 year old of being a ‘money-grabbing slut’ who had made up the attack.Some are on benefits and will be able to pay the debt off at £6 a week – denying the teenager full compensation for two years.Last night the former Tory MP who reported the internet bullies to police said the judge’s lenient sentence ‘sickened her’.
Fined but not jailed: Daniel Cardwell, 25, left, arrives at Prestatyn Magistrates' Court, where he and Paul Devine, 26, right, were fined for naming a woman raped by footballer Ched Evans
‘A teenage rape victim was insulted, demeaned and named – and the perpetrators get fined just a few hundred quid. The law must change to protect victims,’ said Louise Mensch.Sandra McNeill from Rape Crisis Leeds said: ‘The fine is outrageous. The law, which protects the anonymity of rape victims, needs to be adequately applied.‘If somebody breaks the law they should go to jail – and not be given paltry fines. Someone senior needs to have a word with that judge.’
Court appearance: Gemma Thomas, 18, left, and Michael Ashton, 21, right, were among the nine condemned for making comments on social networking sites
The teenager is said to have been traumatised by the heated online discussion after Ched Evans was convicted in April of raping her the previous May.The nine posted the messages about her with ‘deliberate malice’ after the 23-year-old Wales and Sheffield United striker was jailed for five years for the hotel room assault.The defendants appeared at Prestatyn Magistrates' Court in North Wales charged with publishing material likely to lead members of the public to identify the complainant in a rape case.They claimed not to know that identifying a rape victim was a criminal offence.Policing the internet is proving a challenge for constabularies and the case involving such a large group is believed to be unprecedented.The offence – in a case which went to the Attorney General for consent before charges were laid – carried a maximum fine of £5,000.District judge Andrew Shaw rejected other sentencing options in favour of ordering the payment of compensation. Technically, this means the nine – including a biology teacher, a cousin of the player and football supporters – were not even fined.‘Rape is a taboo in every civilised society,’ said the judge. ‘It is viewed in this way because it is a crime against women which subjects them to the most intimate personal violation.‘For reasons which I had thought were within the common knowledge of most intelligent people in this country we offer further protection for the victims of rape by prohibiting the publication of their names and personal details.’But Christopher Hutchins, a lawyer, said: ‘No fine can put back into the box the fact that the victim has been identified.’
Arrested: Dominic Green, 23, was one of the nine held and later convicted over the naming of the victim
Guilty: Benjamin Davies, 27, left, and Craig MacDonald, 26, right, were among the group who passed round comments such as 'money grabbing whore' about the victim
He said the case sent a ‘public health warning’ to all those who use social media and treat it ‘as a conversation’ when it has a ‘far greater ability to spread virally and cause serious harm’.Last night campaigner Jill Saward, who was the victim of the Ealing Vicarage rape in 1986, said the punishment should have been stiffer.
Shamed: Shaun Littler, 22, covers his face outside court, left, while Holly Price, 25, right, faced obscured by umbrella, is also publicity shy
‘I don’t think it’s enough,’ she said. ‘It’s very difficult for victims to come forward when you are dealing with celebrity cases. ‘Questions are raised about your integrity and people will slag you off because you have made a claim against someone who is famous. ‘Sentences need to be a lot stiffer than they currently are. It is not much of a deterrent.’The judge told the offenders they had identified the victim, some with abusive comments and others with ‘deliberate malice’.He added: ‘You did so without proper knowledge of the facts and without any heed of the feelings of the victim.‘Your actions have revictimised this woman again. It is not for you to take the law into your own hands as you did. In my view you best atone for what you have done by paying compensation.’He ordered them to pay a total of £5,616 in compensation as their only punishment.Nita Dowell, prosecuting, told the court the case attracted a huge amount of interest nationally and internationally and there were 6,000 mentions on Twitter.She said North Wales Police received numerous complaints from members of the public and from groups such as Rape Crisis about the victim’s treatment online.Holly Price, 26, a college biology teacher from Prestatyn, retweeted a comment calling the victim a ‘money-grabbing slut’.Price later told police that she had been an idiot and wanted to apologise to the victim.
Convicted: Footballer Ched Evans was found guilty of rape in April and today nine people admitted revealing the name of the victim online
Admission: The nine said they didn't realise what they had done was a crime, Prestatyn Magistrates' Court heard
Gemma Thomas, 18, a pub worker and cousin of Evans from Rhyl, described the victim as a ‘money-grabbing little tramp’ and ‘dirty slapper’.
Star: Evans was an established striker with Sheffield United (pictured scoring against Swansea City) - and some of the people involved in naming the rape victim were Blades fans
Dominic Green, 23, also from the player’s home town, named the victim on Facebook in what he accepted was ‘an act of utter stupidity’. Jobless Paul Devine, from Sheffield, wrote on Facebook: ‘She’s to blame for her downfall. Let’s find her address.’ His lawyer said the 26 year old had no intention of doing so and deleted the post four hours later. Jobless Benjamin Davies, a 27 year old from Rhyl who was a friend of the footballer, made an abusive comment on Twitter.Michael Ashton, 21, of Llanddulas, Colwyn Bay, tweeted she had ‘cried rape’ and she ‘made him sick’.He removed the post after his law student girlfriend told him it was illegal.Shaun Littler, a 22-year-old hotel receptionist and football fan from Sheffield, suggested on Twitter the victim had ‘cried rape before’. He later told police he was ‘devastated’ that Sheffield United had lost Evans as a result of the trial because he was the team’s best player.Another fan Daniel Cardwell, 25 and from Sheffield, told police he was drunk when he insulted the victim on Twitter.And jobless Craig MacDonald, 26, from Prestatyn, tweeted the woman was a ‘money-grabbing slut’.
TWITTER ABUSE THAT HAS LED TO A JAIL SENTENCE
The maximum penalty for revealing the identity of a rape victim is just a fine.
But other social media users who have broken different laws online have gone to jail.
After the footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch from a heart attack during a Bolton Wanderers match, student Liam Stacey, 21, was sent to prison for inciting racial hatred over abusive texts.
He was sentenced to 56 days in prison.