Facebook harassment case thrown out


27 Mar 2008

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A man charged with harassment via social networking site Facebook has been cleared by a Birmingham court.

Michael Hurst was accused of harassment by ex-girlfriend Sophie Sladden after attempting to make contact with her on Facebook. He also sent a book to her workplace.

Chairman of Birmingham Magistrates Court, Catherine Taylor, said the case of harassment was not proven.

“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,” she said.

Sladden told the court that Hurst had sent the Ian McEwan book On Chesil Beach to her workplace and had sent a Friend Request to her via Facebook.

“I felt very scared,” she said. “It affected my social and my work life, my personal life and my emotional health.”

Howard Joy, defending counsel, remarked: “You put yourself on Facebook so anyone in the world could have tried to contact you. And if you did not want them to contact you, you could have just said ‘no’ to their request.”

Hurst told the court his reasons for joining Facebook were not to find Ms Sladden but to look at photographs of a Christmas party.

Prosecuting counsel Nazim Khattac claimed Hurst had been cautioned for harassment of Sladden in November 2007 after continually contacting her.

By Niall Byrne

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