Jailed for Facebook on Madeleine McCann and missing youngster April Jones
A man who posted "disgusting and despicable" online comments about Madeleine McCann and missing youngster April Jones has been jailed for 12 weeks.
Matthew Woods made a number of derogatory posts about both Madeleine, from Rothley, who went missing in Portugal in 2007, and April, who went missing near her home in Machynlleth, in Wales, last week, on his Facebook page.
Sentencing Woods, 19, at Chorley Magistrates' Court, on Monday, chairman of the bench Bill Hudson said the "disgusting and despicable" comments were so serious Woods deserved the longest sentence they could pass – after giving him credit for his early guilty plea.
He said: "The words and references to the current case in Wales and that of the missing girl in Portugal are nothing less than shocking, so much so that no right-thinking person should have communicated to them such fear and distress."
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The ruling was greeted by applause from about 30 people sitting in the public gallery, and Woods smirked as they clapped.
The teenager, of Eaves Lane, Chorley, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that was grossly offensive, on October 3 and 4.
The court heard members of the public were so upset about his postings they reported them to police, and a "vigilante mob" of about 50 people descended on his home. He was arrested on Saturday night.
Martina Jay, prosecuting, said he began posting while drinking at a friend's house after getting the idea from Sickipedia – a website that "trades in sick jokes".
She said: "When interviewed by police, he admitted he posted messages about the two missing children.
"He said he did it to make people think his account had been hacked. He said it got out of hand and he was drunk while doing it."
David Edwards, defending, said Woods was remorseful and regretful.
He said: "With the publicity that follows he will be known as the man who made these comments on Facebook. He has to live with this because of his stupidity."
The Mercury tried to contact the McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell for a comment.
He did not respond, but after comedian Frankie Boyle made an offensive comment about Madeleine last week, Mr Mitchell said, "the family will not dignify any of them by commenting".
The Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page has posted messages of support to April's family in the wake of her disappearance.
After posing appeals for information to more than 100,000 followers, they said: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to April's family."
Madeleine McCann was nearly four when she went missing from her family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Algarve, in May 2007.
April Jones disappeared on October 1, while playing outside her home.