Suspended sentence for April 'joke'

Salisbury Journal: A teenager who posted offensive remarks about April Jones on Facebook has been given a suspended sentence A teenager who posted offensive remarks about April Jones on Facebook has been given a suspended sentence

A sales adviser who made a series of depraved sexual comments about five-year-old April Jones on Facebook has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Magistrates in Worcester opted not to jail Sam Busby despite being told that another Facebook user was locked up for three months for an "almost identical" offence committed last month.

Busby, 18, was arrested by police after posting grossly offensive remarks on the social networking site on the day a man was charged with April's murder - which came five days after her disappearance in Machynlleth, mid Wales.

Opening the case, prosecutor Kerry Lovegrove told the court Busby's initial post on Facebook was a "joke" about April obtained from another website. Although other Facebook users urged Busby to stop writing inappropriate comments, he went on to make sickening claims about April, prompting a woman who has two young daughters to contact West Mercia Police.

After his arrest, Busby, of McIntyre Road, St John's, Worcester, admitted he was responsible for the vile comments and told officers he thought they could only be seen by his friends on Facebook.

Ms Lovegrove told magistrates: "He told the police that he was an immature teenager and it was an attempt to get some attention. On October 8 in Chorley (in Lancashire) a man was given 12 weeks for an almost identical offence where comments were made about April Jones."

Busby pleaded guilty last week to a charge of sending an indecent and offensive message brought under the 2003 Communications Act.

Offering mitigation, defence solicitor Belinda Arris said Busby was now likely to lose his job and was extremely sorry and ashamed. Mrs Arris said: "He's so, so sorry - he has closed down his Facebook account and no longer engages in any social networking."

Passing a six-week jail term suspended for 18 months, magistrates said they had taken into account Busby's early guilty plea and remorse.

Busby, who left the court with his face covered, was also ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge and keep to a 7pm-7am curfew for eight weeks.

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