In November last year, Bains Cohen were approached by Nicola Brookes, a single mother who suffers from chronic Crohn’s disease. Nicola found herself on the receiving end of extremely abusive comments on Facebook, after sending a supporting comment to Frankie Coccoza when he left the X Factor last year. The abuse was vile and unwarranted to the extent that anonymous internet trolls set up a fake Facebook profile account in Nicola’s name and image to post indecent comments and lure young girls. Nicola contacted the police and was informed that there was nothing that could actually be done. Bains Cohen contacted Facebook on several occasions and the fake profile page that was set up in Ms Brookes’ name was successfully taken down. However, this was not the end of Nicola’s suffering. The abusive communications have now got to the stage of the trolls disclosing her personal address and making lewd comments towards her daughter. Again the police were contacted – this time by the firm and whilst the inspector agreed to meet with her, the most that came out of this meeting was the offer of panic alarms in her home. It was clear that, unfortunately, Nicola’s local Police had no idea what to do.
Bains Cohen made the decision to act for Nicola on a pro bono basis to try and bring these trolls to justice. The current stage in the proceedings involves an application being made for an injunction from the High Court, known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order to compel Facebook to release the IP addresses of the posters of this information, in the hope of tracing the identity of the trolls. However, to achieve this, funding needs to be arranged – whilst legal representation is pro bono, third party fees such as Court fees need to be met. In order to progress Nicola’s case Bains Cohen will be funding the costs of the initial court fees. A fundraising effort is also underway to fund further Court fees and associated costs and to help other victims of online abuse.
Commenting on the legal proceedings, Rupinder Bains, said:
“Lawyers should not have to do this. A criminal offence has been committed and the police should be involved hunting down these perpetrators, but no such assistance is provided. There is a clear anomaly in the law and the way in which internet abuse is treated and investigated by the police depending on whether the victim is in the public eye or an ordinary member of the public, like Nicola. We took this case in the hope of achieving justice for Nicola and effecting a change in the system that will help other victims like her.”