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Online abuser jailed over malicious messages to journalist

Amy FentonAn online abuser has been jailed for almost six months after sending malicious messages to a regional daily’s former chief reporter.

Peter Cunliffe has been sentenced to 22 weeks in prison over the messages to Amy Fenton, formerly of South Cumbria daily The Mail, and two other individuals.

Cunliffe has also been giving a two-year restraining order, which means he must not contact Amy or the other victims, either directly or indirectly.

South Cumbria magistrates heard the 50-year-old, of Morecambe, had sent a series of messages and posts via Facebook, many of which were of a racial nature.

He pleaded guilty to six charges – all relating to malicious communications – and was also told to pay £400 in compensation to his victims at Tuesday’s hearing.

Posting on Twitter afterwards, Amy said: “The sentence and restraining order is welcome; glad it’s now been concluded.”

In February last year, Leroy McCarthy was jailed for 20 weeks after issuing a rape threat against Amy.

Amy was later forced to flee her home after receiving death threats online, with police action subsequently being taken against a number of people who sent her abuse.

As a result, she was invited by John Whittingdale, Minister of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to address a new National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, which has been set up to look at protection of journalists in the UK.

Separately, Amy was banned from driving for 12 months in July after admitting drug driving and possession of cocaine before Workington magistrates.

She has since left The Mail and is now working on a freelance basis for Lancs Live.