A man who posted offensive messages on Facebook tribute pages for four dead people has been sentenced to 14 months in prison.
Paul Hind admitted four charges of conveying false information which was indecent or grossly offensive at South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court in August, where the father of one of the women Hind targeted labelled him a “sick sadist”.
The 38-year-old posted messages on pages set up in memory ofOlivia Burt, 20, Joe Tilley, 24, Duncan Sim, 19, and Hannah Witheridge, 23.
Following the sentencing, Sharon Elves from the CPS said: “While others were offering words of comfort and condolence, Paul Hind instead posted cruel messages and images, which were seen by parents still grieving for their children.
“While it is difficult for anybody to understand Hind’s motivation, the undue distress caused by his actions has been made painfully clear.”
Laura Witheridge, sister of Hannah, said outside court that the trolling incident was “one of the most callous and cowardly I have had to endure”.
In a statement issued by Norfolk Police, she said: “Losing someone you love, suddenly, in tragic circumstances is the most painful thing imaginable.
“I don’t believe that, unless you have been in such a position, you can truly comprehend how torturous and unbearable it is.
“I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that today offers some justice for my family, and all of the other families involved in this case… and I hope it sends a strong message that sitting in a dark room, hiding behind a computer screen does not make you untraceable.”
Olivia Burt died from head injuries after an incident outside the city’s Missoula nightclub in February, and posting online, Hind called the Durham University student a “sex worker” and “prostitute”.
Her father, Nigel Burt, said in August that Hind’s actions were a “desecration” of his daughter’s memory.
Describing how the postings had made him and Burt’s mother, Paula, feel “physically sick”, he said: “The person who carried out this trolling can only be described as a sick sadist who knows that they are adding to our anguish and gets enjoyment out of this.”
He also criticised Facebook, stating that the family’s dealings with the social networking company “have compounded our misery” as they only tackle individual posts and not “overall trolling”, describing this method as “hopeless”.
Speaking outside court after the August hearing, Hind said he was “deeply sorry” for his actions and that he had done them “for attention”.
Describing how he was suffering from mental health issues and was “highly intoxicated” at the time of the offences, he said: “All I can say to the families for the actions I have committed is sorry, that is all I can say – sorry.
“I don’t expect them to accept any apology from me whatsoever for what I have done.”