THE OWNER of a Harlow pub has pleaded guilty to publishing a Facebook post claiming the editor of YourHarlow had been arrested for downloading images of child abuse knowing full well that it was untrue.
Karl Morris, aged 33, of Markwell Wood, Harlow appeared at Chelmsford magistrates court on Thursday January 7th.
Morris is the owner of The Small Copper pub on Momples Road in Harlow.
In September, Essex Police published a press release detailing that the pub had been searched as part of a series of raids by a specialist drug unit (see below).
The release was duly published by YourHarlow (YH)
Morris contacted YH and claimed the piece was inaccurate as there was no drugs found on his premises and no arrests made.
YH contacted Essex Police who confirmed that as the piece said, a series of raids took place but no drugs were found or arrests made at The Small Copper.
YH duly published a clarification.
A few days later, Morris contacted YH and demanded the whole story be removed.
The editor, Michael Casey repeated that a clarification had been made.
Morris then sent a text informing YH that he was outside their offices once again demanding the story be removed.
He told YH that he was “starting his own news reports”.
He then published a post on his Facebook page with a headline of
“Local man arrested..over child porn offences”
It claimed that the offices on YH had been raided, three laptops taken which contained thousands of images of child abuse. The post also claimed the editor Michael Casey had been arrested.
He also wrote in the post that a petition had been started to prevent Mr Casey being granted bail.
He then sent the post to the YH editor claiming “I got my statement from government sources and so it won’t be removed any time soon”.
Morris had also published a photo of the YH office and the full address.
This caused an incredible amount of distress to Mr Casey and his family.
They were abroad at this time and believed that there was a chance that their office, which is also their home, could be the subject of a vigilante attack.
Security was enhanced at the office and the police patrolled near the office on regular occasions.
The post had been shared on Facebook with comments such as “string him up” being made.
Next day, the editor’s daughter was picking up her children from school when parents approached her asking if it was true that her father had been arrested for downloading images of child abuse.
His daughter Grace became highly distressed believing that the social services may come and take way her four children.
YH contacted Essex Police who duly took a statement from Mr Casey.
A short time later Morris was arrested at The Small Copper pub.
Morris was interviewed and fully admitted that the whole post had been made up.
He was charged under the Malicious Communications Act.
As a matter of procedure, another newspaper contacted Essex Police who were also able to confirm that no such incident as described by Morris in the post had taken place.
Morris was fined a total of £338.00
A Victim Impact Statement by Mr Casey was read out in court.
He said: “This was a very cruel cruel thing to do.
“It set out to try and ruin me, my family and my business.
“My family were left in a very distressed state after this.
“I have spent seven years building up YourHarlow and am very proud of what we have achieved.
As a newspaper, we have put Harlow on the map, with our stories covered nationally and internationally.
“We are respected as a trusted news source. I am a founder member of the press regulator Impress, our site has been praised in the House of Commons and we featured in The BBC One Show in 2019.
“We are Harlow people doing the best for the town we were born in and a town we love.
“I am a fairly mentally robust journalist but there are many many who I would fear would not have been able to take such a dreadful slur.”
“I am also fortunate to have a close knit family, who came together as I knew they would.”
“I would also like to thank Essex Police for their thorough professionalism in this matter”.
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