The father of a missing Glenrothes man who was targeted by two internet trolls has welcomed a new social media prosecution policy that aims to bring all web bullies to justice.
Allan Bryant Sr said the new guidelines launched by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) would help to deter trolls from posting offensive comments online but said he felt they were “long overdue”.
“Let’s face it, social media sites such as Facebook have been around for a very long time and most folk I know are on it so this policy should have been put in place well before now,” he said.
Mr Bryant Sr first became the victim of internet trolling in April when he was sent sick messages from Dunfermline man Stewart McInroy, who claimed to have tortured and killed his son, Allan Bryant Jr, who has been missing since November 2013.
McInroy was jailed for 10 months in August following the offence.
Mr Bryant Sr was again targeted, this time by Markinch man David Perrie, who posted images online of a figure wearing a mask depicting the missing 24-year-old.
The picture featured a caption claiming “I’ve found him, he’s on a mad one”.
Perrie was charged after the incident and fined £500 at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Tuesday.
Mr Bryant Sr said: “It’s pretty soul-destroying when this happens to you and it affects your whole family.
“It also makes you very angry because you have to wonder what goes through people’s heads to do something so sick and twisted it’s not normal.
“Maybe if this social media policy had been in place before it might have put people off doing it but it’s too late for my family as the damage is done.
“People need to remember that if they post something offensive or hateful online it’s the same as saying it to someone in a public place and they have to face the consequences of their actions.
“It’s now been over a year since we last saw our son and we are trying to prepare for another Christmas without him so it’s hard enough for us without sick people we don’t even know thinking they’re funny by posting vile messages about our situation.
“I just don’t understand what anyone could get out of it and hope they are all named and shamed under this new policy and brought to justice.”
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said the authorities would continue to clamp down on those who cause distress via virtual forums.
He added: “The rule of thumb is simple if it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online.
“Those who use the internet to peddle hate or abuse, to harass, to blackmail, or any other number of crimes, need to know that they cannot evade justice simply by hiding behind their computers or mobile phones.”