Woman sentenced after online trolling of GB News journalist

Hull Magistrates Court
Hull Magistrates Court

Elizabeth O'Brien pleaded guilty to one count of sending malicious communications


GB News Yorkshire reporter Anna Riley writes about her experience of receiving online malicious communications in response to her journalism.

Despite the harm it can cause, trolling still goes on day in, day out and has no signs of abating any time soon. Tragically people have even taken their own lives as a result of the hate they have faced online.

People often seem to be under the impression that you can say anything online and get away with it, but you must report abuse you receive to the police.

After my own recent experience of receiving a vile email in response to a story I wrote whilst working for my local paper in April before joining GB News, I would encourage reporting trolling and harassment so that these spineless individuals are punished and the message gets spread that it's not okay to troll.

In the contents of the email, the troll threatened to publish my address, made nasty comments about my appearance and told me to take my own life.

It left me sick to my stomach and was an especially shocking response to me just doing my job. By all means it is completely legitimate for people to have an opinion on the stories I cover or disagree, but not when it becomes personal.

As journalists we are in the public eye and our role is to hold those in power to account, help people find justice and celebrate the wonderful events and heartwarming stories that happen in our communities.

But being trolled and having our safety and security threatened on top, is just not something that anyone should have to deal with, no matter what their job is.

I am so pleased Humberside Police took my complaint seriously and that justice has been done in the courts.

By all means, give feedback online and when we are in the wrong as journalists we will hold our hands up and apologise, but just remember, be kind. We are all human after all.

Elizabeth O'Brien, 31, of The Greenway in Hull, pleaded guilty to one count of sending malicious communications at Hull Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, June 22.

She was made the subject of a community order where she must carry out 80 hours of unpaid work. She must also pay £100 in compensation and court costs of £85.

The email was sent in response to a story published by Hull Live about an elected councillor's comments after Prince Philip's death.

In line with media law, I approached the councillor for a response before the story was published. The councillor provided a comment, standing by the remarks she had made on social media. She was aware a story would be published.

However, after the story went online, O'Brien took issue, and took to her computer on April 12 this year to send the vile email.

In it, she said: "Hi Anna, I feel like comments should be monitored more.

"Now that I have your attention you racist scum bag.

"Why are you attacking [redacted councillor's name?] Is it because she called you out publicly for putting out a very racist piece Anna?

"You dirty racist fat c**, even your alcoholic boyfriend can't stand you because you're a needy fat s** who lives on takeaways. Bunch of nasty racist dirty scumbags. Go kill yourself you racist scumbag.

"I also know you live in the Avenues area of Hull and will share your info via social media if you do not remove your hate filled racist article regarding the wonderful [redacted councillor's name].

"You are clearly a Nazi supporter, nobody gives a f*** about the Nazi/paedo royals apart from white supremacists such as yourselfs at hdf."