A troll who falsely accused an innocent dad of sexually abusing his own children as part of a “frenzied” and “mob rule” internet hate campaign has been jailed.
Housing firm employee Alan Colley used his Facebook page to join in a vicious and damaging conspiracy theory about a man who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
A court heard the youngsters had been “coached” to make false accusations against their dad and hundreds of other people.
Prosecutor Andrew Espley told Newcastle Crown Court: “Every single one of those allegations was demonstrably false. The children had been coached, forced and bullied into saying those things.”
Mr Espley said those responsible for the coaching had supporters, including Colley, who would post things online about the allegations.
“They insist the victim abused his children and say there’s a conspiracy to prevent the truth coming out,” he said.
The court heard a family judge ruled previously that there was no truth in the wild claims and Colley even went on to post something about the judge eating babies.
He also posted the names and pictures of the children online.
Mr Espley said: “The effects on the victim have been profoundly damaging.
“Mr Colley’s posts are part of the reason why he feels unable to live a normal life.
“He feels the posts are designed to stir up anger and hatred.
“Every time he reads one, he is reminded of why he has to be hyper-vigilant.
“He and those who care about him have to monitor the online campaign against him. Some contain death threats and threats to kidnap his children.” Mr Espley said Colley himself was not responsible for those threats himself.
Even after his arrest, Colley carried on posting while released on bail, saying: “My bail conditions don’t allow my to post this but f*** them”.
Mr Espley told the court: “We say the harm suffered couldn’t be a more serious kind of its type.
“His behaviour didn’t only encourage others to do the same but actually encouraged people to join in.”
The court heard Colley, who has a “long list of previous convictions”, published one of the posts while subject to a community order and two of them were done while on bail.
Mr Espley said: “It’s likely to have the most devastating consequence for the victim, as the family court judge said.
“There is no remorse at all for him to rely on as mitigation.”
Colley, of Laverock Place, Kenton, Newcastle, admitted sending malicious communications and was jailed for nine months. He was also made subject to a criminal behaviour order prohibiting him posting similar material again.
Judge Edward Bindloss told him: “You posted various grossly offensive remarks on your Facebook page which was open to others and open to people to see and read and re-post.
“You wrongly believed two children who you had no connection with had been sexually abused by their father and you joined in a campaign for a prolonged period in what you saw as a passionate search for truth and justice but in fact was an obsessive and frenzied quest of injustice.
“There was no credible evidence they had been sexually abused and the High Court judge made a definitive finding of such.
“You stirred up anxiety and distress for the complainant.
“This was not your fight but you joined in with gusto.
“Even now, it seems you fail to see the larger picture and your role in this vicious internet mob rule.”
Peter Walsh, defending, said: “This was something that was going on before he entered the fray.
“People ended up believing what others put on the internet.”
Mr Walsh said Colley and others believed the allegations and that the system had failed people.
Judge Bindloss commented: “All conspiracy theorists find material that support what they think is the true position.”
Mr Walsh added: “He is in employment and there is a reference from a site manager at Taylor Wimpey, it’s a glowing reference.
“The defendant is a site operative and checks the finished product. He is in a high level of trust and has responsiblity.
“Once he got work, he stopped his obsession about the internet.
“He has a long term partner and two grown up children.”