'Cowardly' Sheffield 'troll' jailed over prolonged campaign of online abuse after wasting 'second chance'

A 'cowardly' Sheffield troll is behind bars, after she breached court orders to continue her campaign of online abuse against a grieving widow.
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Katie Bell, aged 27, was given a second chance by Recorder Andrew Smith MBE in August 2021 when he sentenced her to 18 months' custody, suspended for two years, for two counts of stalking, relating to the 'unpleasant' campaign of abuse she directed towards two complainants. Recorder Smith also made Bell the subject of an indefinite restraining order, preventing her from contacting Complainant A during the same Sheffield Crown Court hearing.

Despite the court orders in place, Bell, of Stradbroke Road, Sheffield, resumed her campaign of abuse against one of the complainants just eight months later, when she posted a series of comments on news articles paying tribute to Complainant A's husband following his death, including one which said: 'serves him right' and another which suggested 'he should have been six-feet-under years ago'.

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Bell was brought before Sheffield Crown Court on July 3, 2023 to be sentenced for breaching her restraining order through such conduct, for breaching her suspended sentence order as a consequence, and for an additional charge of malicious communication.

Sentencing Bell for the second time, Recorder Smith told her that when he passed the suspended sentence order 'all the signs were there that you could be rehabilitated,' adding that a reference from her manager at the charity she worked at had persuaded him that Bell 'recognised the harm' she had caused to her victims.

As he sent Bell to begin a 15-month prison sentence, Recorder Smith said that if he were to pass another suspended sentence upon Bell, he believed there was a 'high risk' that she would 'keep her head down,' complete all of the requirements asked of her, and then carry out 'further malicious communications'.

Katie Bell was jailed during a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court on Monday, July 3, 2023Katie Bell was jailed during a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court on Monday, July 3, 2023
Katie Bell was jailed during a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court on Monday, July 3, 2023

"For that reason, these offences are so serious, that the only thing I can do with you is to lock you up," Recorder Smith told Bell.

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In a moving victim statement read to the court by Complainant A, she detailed the horrific distress Bell had subjected her to, which began with online threats to harm her and her family - including ones in which she sent her pictures of a machete and a baby's coffin seemingly referring to the woman's young grandchild - and continued with sick comments about her late husband, in spite of restraining, and suspended sentence, orders in place.

Complainant A said this course of conduct left her in fear of what Bell 'would do next'.

She continued: "I will always believe that everyone deserves a second chance, but unfortunately, Ms Bell has wasted that chance."

Prosecuting barrister, Amy Earnshaw, told the court that Bell's malicious communication offence relates to a number of inflammatory comments Bell made across the social media pages of various news outlets and police forces. One such comment was made in response to an appeal to find a missing 15-year-old girl published by Merseyside Police in November 2022, under which Bell posted: "Serves her right if she is dead."

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Bell also responded to an appeal from the Metropolitan Police concerning a woman being stabbed by saying: "Serves her right."

Bell was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, two breaches of a restraining order, breaching a suspended sentence order, and a further charge of malicious communications.

Defending, Zaiban Alam said Bell was someone who had been the victim of bullying while at school; and had gone on to be very socially-isolated in her adult life.

As he sent Katie Bell to prison, Recorder Andrew Smith MBE described her as 'cowardly'As he sent Katie Bell to prison, Recorder Andrew Smith MBE described her as 'cowardly'
As he sent Katie Bell to prison, Recorder Andrew Smith MBE described her as 'cowardly'

Ms Alam told the court that in the report prepared by a psychologist prior to her receiving the suspended sentence order, it was suggested that Bell would benefit from pyschological intervention, but she has not received any form of counselling in the intervening 23 months.

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She suggested this would have been a 'protective factor' that may have prevented Bell from re-offending, adding that Bell was stripped of her job - the only other protective factor in her life - following what Ms Alam described as a 'run-in' with a colleague. Ms Alam said Bell carried out the breaches and malicious communication offence after losing that employment, leaving her 'trapped in her room'.

Bell has since started a new job, Ms Alam said, adding that Bell has begun to forge new relationships through that employment.

As he sent Bell to begin her prison sentence, Recorder Smith dubbed Bell a 'troll' and said despite the threats and abuse she has subjected her victims to, he did not believe there was 'any risk' of her going around and 'confronting anybody'.

"I don't think that's the sort of person you are. You are too cowardly for that, you just sit behind a computer and wind people up," said Recorder Smith.

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