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MP calls for policy to curb web trolls

Thursday 6th June 2013 (Andrew Griffiths)

THE law was wrongly applied in the case of an online ‘troll’ who taunted a grieving mother following the death of her teenage son.

That appears to be the view of the main legal advisor to the Government after he was questioned about the case surrounding the death of 16-year-old Jordan Agar in a parliamentary debate by Burton MP Andrew Griffiths.

Mr Griffiths spoke in a debate about social media and abusive communications in the House of Commons.

He raised the case which saw Jordan’s mother Bridget Agar contacted by an online ‘troll’ who set up a fake Facebook account claiming to be her son, just hours after he died in a motorcycle accident in Tutbury last year.

The sick Facebook messages included the culprit writing “Don’t worry mum, I’m not dead, I’ve just run away.” and ‘I’ve gone to hell’.

Mrs Agar was also invited to attend a birthday party for her late son.

The 21-year-old culprit, from Burton, received only a police caution for the offence, meaning he has never been named.

Mr Griffiths asked Attorney General Dominic Grieve what could be done to make sure such an occurrence never happened again.

In his response Mr Grieve said: “What is clear is that the interim guidelines, already in existence, provide, particularly under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, clear grounds on which such a message could be prosecuted because it is offensive, shocking or disturbing and harasses the person who receives it.

“The harassment aspect would normally take it straight into the criminal domain.

“The guidelines are designed to strike a balance.

“Sometimes things that are merely offensive will not be criminal, but what my hon. Friend described seems to me to be well on the wrong side of the line.”

Mr Griffiths told the Mail all sides of the House were ‘shocked’ and ‘appalled’ when he explained the circumstances behind the case during the debate.

He said: “It is clear that the Attorney General believes that the law may have been wrongly applied in this case and that it was so severe that it warranted a court appearance.

“I will be writing to the Attorney General asking him to look again at this case so that even if nothing can be done now, we can learn lessons to ensure that people who commit such appalling acts feel the full force of the law and can’t hide behind the internet.”

Mr Griffiths said he is trying to clarify the situation but he believes it is not possible to overturn the caution.

Mrs Agar said at the time of the caution that justice had not been served.

She said: “I’m not going to stand for him getting a slap on the wrist. I want justice for Jordan.

“What he did was absolutely appalling. All I’ve ever asked for is for him to be named and shamed.”

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