Sheffield 'troll' to have use of social media restricted when she is released from prison

A Sheffield woman jailed over a prolonged campaign of stalking and online abuse directed at strangers will be forced to abide by a series of conditions, relating to her use of social media and the internet when she is released from prison.
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Recorder Andrew Smith MBE sent defendant Katie Bell, who he branded a 'troll,' to begin a 15-month prison sentence on Monday, July 3, 2023 during a Sheffield Crown Court hearing.

27-year-old Bell, of Stradbroke Road in the Woodhouse area of Sheffield was jailed for breaching restraining, and suspended sentence, orders to resume her prolonged campaign of vile abuse and threats directed at a stranger, and for an additional charge of malicious communication.

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Attending via video-link from prison, Bell was brought before Recorder Smith at Sheffield Crown Court again today (Friday, July 7, 2023) for him to consider whether he should impose a criminal behaviour order (CBO) that would restrict Bell's use of the internet, and social media in particular, when she is released from custody.

After hearing arguments from both prosecution and defence counsel, Recorder Smith sentenced Bell to a five-year CBO, explaining that he was 'satisfied' that one was needed because 'harassment, alarm or distress' would be caused if Bell were to commit further, like offences. Recorder Smith also said he believed the order may help to prevent her from 'engaging in such behaviour, which is what we're all really interested in'.

Bell must adhere to a series of conditions relating to her use of social media, as part of a five-year criminal behaviour order imposed today (Friday, July 7, 2023)Bell must adhere to a series of conditions relating to her use of social media, as part of a five-year criminal behaviour order imposed today (Friday, July 7, 2023)
Bell must adhere to a series of conditions relating to her use of social media, as part of a five-year criminal behaviour order imposed today (Friday, July 7, 2023)

Recorder Smith told Bell she must adhere to the following set of internet and social media conditions, as part of the CBO, or she could be sent back to prison for 'up to five years':

- Bell must not have a device capable of connecting to the internet, unless it is able to retain its internet history for a minimum of 30 days

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- Bell is not permitted to delete, or attempt to delete, the internet history of any internet-enabled device she is in possession of

- Bell is not permitted to 'hold a social media account in a name other than her own'; or to have one that is 'not reflective' of her identity

- Bell is only permitted to have one account on every social media platform, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp

- Bell must provide the local police force with the details of her user-name, password and account for every social media profile she has

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Recorder Smith noted that the first two conditions, relating to retaining internet history, were one which were often imposed in the cases of 'sex-offenders who have used devices to contact children'.

Prosecuting barrister, Amy Earnshaw, applied for the CBO to be imposed during Monday's sentencing hearing, but Recorder Smith said he did not have the relevant information needed to make a decision at that time.

Recorder Smith did not agree to all of the CBO conditions Ms Earnshaw applied for, rejecting calls to prohibit Bell from contacting anyone on the internet without their consent.

Bell's barrister, Zaiban Alam, argued that 'everyone has a social media presence' and such platforms are often used to contact businesses with queries. Ms Alam suggested that preventing Bell from contacting anyone on the internet without their consent would restrict her right to use social media in that way.

Attending via video-link from prison, Bell was brought before Recorder Smith at Sheffield Crown Court again today (Friday, July 7, 2023) for him to consider whether he should impose a criminal behaviour order (CBO) that would restrict Bell's use of the internet, and social media in particular, when she is released from custodyAttending via video-link from prison, Bell was brought before Recorder Smith at Sheffield Crown Court again today (Friday, July 7, 2023) for him to consider whether he should impose a criminal behaviour order (CBO) that would restrict Bell's use of the internet, and social media in particular, when she is released from custody
Attending via video-link from prison, Bell was brought before Recorder Smith at Sheffield Crown Court again today (Friday, July 7, 2023) for him to consider whether he should impose a criminal behaviour order (CBO) that would restrict Bell's use of the internet, and social media in particular, when she is released from custody
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Recorder Smith also refused a proposed condition, which stipulated that Bell must not use social media to 'cause distress to another' because he said that such behaviour would be dealt with through a court process for relevant criminal offences, in any event.

Bell was sentenced to 18 months' custody, suspended for two years, duing a Sheffield Crown Court hearing in August 2021, for offences of stalking, relating to her online harassment and abuse of strangers. An indefinite restraining order, preventing her from contacting one of her complainants until further order of the courts, was imposed at the same time.

Bell ignored both court orders in place just eight months later, when she began subjecting one of her previous complainants to more abuse. The complainant in question had just lost her husband when Bell resumed her online harassment in March 2022, posting under online tribute articles, stating he 'should have been six-feet under years ago'.

As he sentenced Bell for the second time earlier this week, 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'.

"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.