Serial stalker, troll and digital menace sentenced after 5 year digital hate campaign
Dennis Robert Gooding of Elvaston Drive, Long Eaton, Derbyshire pleaded guilty to eight counts including stalking, harassment & breach of a previous restraining order and was sentenced to a one year in prison and an indefinite restraining order late yesterday at Derbyshire Magistrates Court.
As well as terrorising several other unnamed victims, whose cases are still ongoing, Goodling conducted a 5 year revenge campaign against Michael Twomey, who runs Nottstalgia.com an online Nottingham history enthusiast group. It included a barrage of abusive emails, a blog, Facebook comments and bogus account registrations on Twomey’s site.
Over the years, the content was diverse from offensive comments and derogatory photo shopped images to threatening messages and images and the posting of Twomey’s personal information. An intimidating situation made much more stressful by the initial lack of action from the authorities. Twomey’s requests for help were ignored by his MP and initially by the Police who did not take the matter seriously even though as it turned out that they were receiving similar complaints from multiple victims.
“It all started when we banned him from our forum for posting offensive material. He was a troll, being very disrespectful to our older forum members and misogynistic to women. After several warnings he still continued to be offensive so we had no option than to ban him” Says Twomey. “He then focused his hate on myself, anyone else who helped run the site, and even my partner, causing her to be terrified by his threats. He posted on his blog that he knew where she worked and then a short time later he confronted here in the shop where she worked” explains Michael Twomey.
Jennifer Perry, CEO of the Digital-Trust, had helped and support Twomey for the last four years said, “It is incredibly frustrating when you have a serial abuser known to the police from multiple reports but no action is taken. However, a new stalking law was introduced in November 2012 and it is slowly getting better for victims as police services are training their officers”.
Dr. Emma Short, Director of the National Centre for Cyberstalking Research said, “This crime can be devastating for victims, and in the worst cases they find themselves the target of an unrelenting campaign of intimidation and threat which inevitably leads to high levels of fear and can cause significant psychological harm. Victims often become anxious, depressed, hopeless and fearful. Because stalking usually continues over months or years, victims endure what amounts to psychological terrorism which disrupts many areas of their lives, their relationships and their ability to function well on a daily basis.
PC Keeley Mansell, Nottinghamshire Police, “This was a very disturbing case for Mr Twomey. He has been harassed by the defendant for many years, and continued his campaign of harassment over the internet. He would continually post remarks on the complainant's own website Nottstalgia and on the defendant's own blog.
“Gooding’s clever, and at times, subtle harassment has clearly had a terrible impact upon the victim over time and he has been greatly affected by the defendant's relentless behaviour. This type of stalking can have a devastating psychological effect on victims” she continues “There is still a limited knowledge, awareness and education about stalking even though the problem is increasing with the use of social media. Many people do not fully understand stalking and harassment behaviours and how frightening it is when it is happening to you. Stalking behaviour is about coercive control and jealousy and can include psychological and emotional abuse and violence. It does not make it any less dangerous if there is no violence. Mr Twomey was made to feel like prisoner in his own home over time. This has had a devastating impact not just on Mr Twomey’s life but also those closest to him”.
In pronouncing sentence Recorder Nirmal Shant QC said: "You have made it your mission to make Mr Twomey's life a misery."
Perry explained, “we are a digital nation now, we love our smartphones and social media but there are some vicious individuals that use them as an accessible means to abuse, harass and intimidate others”
Twomey says: “my Partner and myself are deeply indebted to Jennifer Perry for her assistance. We look on her as the world expert on stalking and digital abuse. We are very lucky to have had her help and advice over a number of years. She was particularly helpful in explaining the different stalker profiles, this helped us a lot in understanding Gooding’s behaviour and the risks.
Twomey is relieved that Gooding has pleaded guilty and has received a custodial sentence, plus an indefinite restraining order. He knows that stalkers often reoffend but he hopes now there is a conviction, if it should start again the police will act promptly.
“I don’t think we could have coped without Jennifer’s digital expertise and support. She was determined to help us get this case to court” he continues “Nottinghamshire police have done a tremendous job. Detective Sergeant Keeley Mansell immediately understood the impact the stalking was having on our lives and took it very seriously. She had taken time to gain an understanding of such offenders, as did Detective Craig Wrenn, Police Constables Emma Weatherhill and Jim Lighton, were a great help with our statements and documenting our evidence. It is particularly the latter two Patrol officer’s understanding and empathy, that restored our confidence in the police service, enabling us to pursue the complaint against Gooding.”
Jennifer Perry, founded the Digital-Trust to help victim’s like Michael Twomey whose abuser use the Internet, mobiles, social media and surveillance technology to torment them. The criminal justice system and support charities are struggling to deal with this new and escalating type of abuse. The Digital-Trust is campaigning and developing resources for victims that will increase their safety reduce the harm and risks from their abusers.
Stalking is when someone becomes fixated or obsessed with another person. They will contact them, monitor everything they do, spy on them, bully them, try to ruin their reputation. The attention is relentless and no matter how many times or who tells them, they don’t stop. According to the British Crime Survey there are over 700,000 victims of stalking each year. This number is increasing because technology.