Sept. 27: Facebook has been criticised by a judge for encouraging violence because people feel they can post offensive messages they would never say face to face.
Judge Nigel Gilmour, sitting at Liverpool Crown Court, said the site fuelled a violent attack by Daniel Cannon, 17, in which he used “his teeth as a weapon” to bite off a chunk of a friend’s ear.
“It is remarkable when people are communicating on Facebook that they say things they would not say face to face,” said the judge.
“We are increasingly getting in court instances beginning on Facebook, it is becoming more and more.”
He hit out over messages posted on Facebook by Cannon’s brother, which provoked the attack.
Judge Gilmour said they were “absolutely disgraceful and centred on threats of violence”. He said: “I had an opportunity to look at the Facebook (comments) — and it can be said that the defendant’s brother is responsible for Daniel Cannon being in the dock.
“It would have been appropriate if your brother could be in court today. It was disgraceful, pathetic, juvenile behaviour — messages some of which were deeply offensive and of a violent nature.
“If your mother has not had the opportunity (to read them) then I hope she is given it, so she can understand why it is I say a great deal of responsibility for you being in the dock lies at the feet of your brother.”
Daniel Cannon, 17, was spared a custodial sentence after pleading guilty to sinking his teeth into the left ear of a friend during an early morning fight in a corridor at St Helens College’s technology campus, on Merseyside.
The court heard Cannon got embroiled in a fight after “disgraceful, pathetic and violent” exchanges between his brother and the victim.
Sentencing, Judge Gilmour, who allowed Cannon to be named despite him being under 18, said the motor mechanic student had “a rush of blood to the head” while the pair were grappling in a brawl.
He used “his teeth as a weapon” to bite into the victim’s ear tearing away 2cm of flesh, which could not be reattached by surgeons.
But the judge added that some of the blame also lay with his brother, Paul, who had engaged in a sequence of disturbing exchanges with the victim on Facebook prior to the attack. Ben Morris, defending, added: “People seem to see what is going on on Facebook on the Internet as a kind of different form of reality than what is going on in a personal exchange.”
Judge Gilmour told Cannon, who was 16 at the time of the assault, that if he had been an adult he would have been sent to prison.
However, given his age and his early guilty plea, the judge sentenced him to an 18-month supervision order and 150 hours unpaid work.
He will also have to complete a victim empathy and violent offender programme. Judge Gilmour, who viewed the victim’s injury in chambers at an earlier hearing, added: “There is nothing in your background to begin to explain why you should do that.
“It was a rush of blood to your head that potentially could have had serious consequences for the rest of your life.”