First 'Facebook harassment' defendant cleared
Friend request not proved
A Birmingham man has been cleared of harassing his ex-girlfriend over Facebook in the first prosecution to specifically cite the social networking website.
Michael Hurst, 33, of Edgbaston, was accused of harassing Sophie Sladden under the 1997 Harassment Act.
Magistrates cleared the theatrical set builder yesterday, saying prosecutors had not proven that he used a Facebook friend request to harass his former partner.
Chairwoman Catherine Taylor said: "We are of the view the Facebook incident has not been proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt. We therefore have to dismiss the charge."
Sladden had told the court that Hurst's alleged attempts to contact her via Facebook had frightened her. "It affected my social and my work life, my personal life and my emotional health," The Birmingham Mail reports she said.
The defence argued that by joining the site, she had invited people to get in touch. "You put yourself on Facebook so anyone in the world could have tried to contact you," Howard Joy said.
"And if you did not want them to contact you, you could have just said 'no' to their request."
In his evidence, Hurst said he joined Facebook to look at Christmas party photos, not to contact Sladden. "I looked at the pictures and when I clicked on their names their profile pages opened up. Some of those people were Sophie's friends as well. I didn’t go looking for her," he said
The prosecution said Hurst had previously been cautioned in November 2007 for continually contacting Sladden.
Last year, a Buckinghamshire man was jailed after a Facebook friend request he made violated an existing restraining order. ®
Could be reasonable
On both sides it could be considered reasonable. The article lists that he had previously been warned - "The prosecution said Hurst had previously been cautioned in November 2007 for continually contacting Sladden." Therefore if the guy shows up in any way as watching or trying to contact Sladden, then it needs to be brought up not just filed away as "oh, I'll just block the request". The guys response that she is friends of his friends/acquaintances may also be reasonable as it's difficult to draw a line in the sand when there are other mutual people/places involved.
At least some people still have what was refered to as common sense.
If you don't want to be contacted by someone or don't want to talk to them on a social site then block them.
What would have been wrong with denying the request and blocking his profile? AFAIK all social networking sites allow you to block someone from contacting you.
If she had blocked him, and he'd created a new profile in order to get around the block, then I could see why she'd want to file a lawsuit.
On the other hand, if she has just gone straight for the lawsuit option then she ouight to be made to pay all costs and prosecuted for wasting time, as even an idiot can block someone and it looks like her lawsuit was filed maliciously.