Pair jailed in Britain for abusing feminist on Twitter

LONDON (AFP) - A man and a woman were jailed in Britain on Friday for bombarding a feminist campaigner on Twitter with abuse including rape threats and suggestions that she should kill herself.

Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, sent expletive-laden messages to journalist Caroline Criado-Perez last year after she led a successful campaign for the face of author Jane Austen to appear on a new version of Britain's £10 banknote.

A judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London sentenced university graduate Sorley to 12 weeks in prison and Nimmo, who is unemployed, to eight weeks.

Judge Howard Riddle ordered the pair to serve half their sentences in custody and pay £800 (S$1,680) each in compensation.

Nimmo also sent abuse to lawmaker Stella Creasy, a member of the main opposition Labour party, the court heard.

Judge Howard Riddle said the abuse was "life-changing" for Criado-Perez, causing her "panic and fear and horror".

Ms Creasy has had a panic button installed in her home since being bombarded with online abuse, the judge added.

Nimmo and Sorley, both of whom live near Newcastle in northeast England, pleaded guilty in January, admitting they were behind some of the 86 separate Twitter accounts from which Ms Criado-Perez received abuse.

Several other female British writers received bomb threats at around the same time.

The wave of abuse sparked a huge outcry amongst Twitter users and prompted more than 100,000 people to sign an online petition demanding the website introduce a "report abuse" button. Twitter has since introduced the feature.

Nimmo and Sorley were sentenced as a 23-year-old man in France was fined 2,000 euros (S$3,500), for sending rape threats on Twitter to an anti-racism activist.

In October, a 17-year-old Moroccan was jailed for three months for posting a death threat to US President Barack Obama on his Twitter page.

Ms Criado-Perez tweeted that she was "immensely relieved that the judge clearly has understood the severity of the impact this abuse has had on me". But she added that she received fresh abuse in the hours since Nimmo and Sorley were sentenced, and has reported it to the police.