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suspended sentences handed down in first social media contempt case

On 26 April 2013, the High Court handed down suspended custodial sentences in Attorney-Generals first prosecution for contempt involving social media sites.

Two men, Dean Liddle and Neil Harkins, admitted posting photographs, purporting to identify Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, in breach of a worldwide injunction protecting their new identities.  Venables and Thompson were convicted of the murder of James Bulger in 1993, when they were both ten years old, and were released on licence in 2001.  Prior to their release, the court granted an injunction to prevent their new personas being revealed to the public.

Liddle and Harkins, posted the photographs on Twitter and Facebook on the 20th anniversary of Bulgers death.  Both were aware that their actions were a circumvention of the injunction and took the photos down after they were contacted by the Treasury solicitor.   Their representatives offered personal mitigation to support a suspended sentence although the court indicated that any future breaches would attract immediate custodial sentences.


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