Police probe after online troll who stalked disabled woman freed from jail early

Police are investigating allegations an internet troll, who hounded a disabled woman for more than a year, has breached his restraining order after being let out of jail early.

Nicky Wright never met online abuse campaigner Nicola Brookes but stalked her on an almost daily basis online between June 2016 and September 2017, mocking the fact she had Crohn’s disease, making sexually offensive remarks and even publishing her address.

He was jailed in August last year after being convicted in his absence of stalking at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.

District Judge Amanda Kelly described his offending as “about as serious as it can get” and branded him a “cowardly predator” who hid behind the anonymity of the internet to wage a “sinister and deeply personal campaign”.

She handed him a restraining order prohibiting him or anyone on his behalf from contacting Ms Brookes by any means or referring to her in any way online.

Wright was due to be released in October on licence after serving half his 24-week sentence in custody.

But Ms Brookes learned through friends that Wright was no longer behind bars and contacted police, who confirmed he had been released in September, serving just six weeks.

The 52-year-old, of Brighton, told the Press Association she has since reported Wright to Sussex Police, claiming he has breached his restraining order after her name appeared in internet posts.

Tony Lumb allegations
Online abuse campaigner Nicola Brookes (Steve Parsons/PA)

A force spokesman confirmed they were investigating the allegations and said they were being treated “seriously”.

Ms Brookes also contacted Twitter as she believes he is operating several accounts and may be violating its terms of usage.

She urged police to investigate the matter swiftly, reiterated her calls for a stalking register and criticised the justice system for failing to inform her of his early release.

Ms Brookes said: “It is vital victims are told when their abusers are coming out of jail.

“The onus is always on the victim to ensure the law is being followed, that should not be the case. Everything takes so long to investigate and it is so time-consuming.”

A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “We have received a report of a breach of a restraining order and are investigating.

“We are treating the matter seriously, as we do with all allegations of stalking and harassment, and are working with the victim.”

A Ministry of Justice (MOJ) spokesman said: “Stalking is a heinous crime and this offender is being investigated, we regret any distress caused to the victim in this case.”

He said while Ms Brookes is not automatically eligible for the Victim Contact Scheme, a statutory probation service for victims of certain crimes when an offender is jailed for 12 months or more which would mean they are informed of the release date, the MoJ “can guarantee” she would be updated on “relevant developments” in future.

Although in such circumstances probation would be expected to inform police of a prison release because it was the “right thing to do by victims”, they are not currently contractually obliged to do so.

The MOJ said it was “committed” to improving the system.

Twitter did not respond when contacted for comment.

Last year, Ms Brookes said she could “finally breathe again” after Wright was jailed, and told how she had to send up to 150 screenshots a day to police of his persistent behaviour.

The “nightmare ordeal” led her to sleep with a knife by her bed.

The court was told he used 28 Twitter profiles, 25 Facebook accounts or pages as well as blogs, online radio and video channels to carry out his “cowardly” campaign of hatred.

He photoshopped pictures of her, doctored comments she made, created videos about her, posted hate mail and even fed false allegations about her to a national newspaper.

The 39-year-old, who gave his address as Waters Road, Lewisham, did not attend his trial but handed himself in to police the next morning, claiming he missed the hearing because he overslept and said the case had caused him “stress and anxiety”.

He complained about the press being in court, saying he did not want “certain information going everywhere online”, and sat with his fingers in his ears during the hearing but watching Ms Brookes as her victim impact statement was read aloud.

Ms Brookes won a landmark High Court case in 2012 which forced Facebook to reveal the identities of trolls who vilified her after she posted a comment supporting former X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza.

But she has since described how online abuse against her only became worse.

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