The media has often reported social networking sites as a factor in divorce, depression and even organised fights. Whether there is any substance or not in this is debatable, however, one thing is certain, social networking is a new, easily accessible and free form of communication that can be abused. This is something which Rav Wilding knows only too well.
Toneeta Beckford, 24 was recently found guilty of harassment by Warley Magistrates' Court, West Midlands based on the “grotesque and vile” messages she sent to Wilding on a drunken evening via Facebook and Twitter.
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 dictates that if the courts are satisfied you have behaved in a way which amounts to harassment of another, they will grant an injunction for the purpose of restraining you from pursuing that conduct further.
Beckford was of course blocked from Wildings Facebook and Twitter account but she got around this by simply opening an account under an assumed name. The injunction granted by the court will be a sigh of relief for Wilding who will now have the right to apply for the issue of a warrant for the arrest of Beckford if she continues her campaign under pseudonyms whilst she is on bail.
The Strictly Come Dancing and Crimewatch star claimed in court that he feared for his life based on the messages Beckford sent to him. Wilding told the court he feared that Beckford’s reign of abuse would result in him being the next Jill Dando: “Obviously, in the nature of my work on Crimewatch, and my predecessor being murdered in her job, I have to take security very seriously.”
Beckford will be sentenced later this month and if found guilty on summary conviction could face up to six months in prison or a fine (not exceeding the statutory maximum) or both.
The message this case to date portrays is that the courts will not accept harassment through social networking sites, they will not accept being intoxicated as an excuse and if you feel you are being subject to this type of harassment then speak out now!