An Antrim man who posted an explicit photograph of his partner in a so-called revenge porn case escaped a jail sentence on Tuesday when he agreed to spend a year on probation and complete 120 hours of community service.
Antrim Magistrates Court heard that amongst the text messages Isaac Woods “bombarded” the lady with on February 1 this year, he gave her a “countdown” threatening that “f*** you - I’m ruining you like you did me, keep an eye on your phone”.
“At the completion [of the countdown], he posted an indecent image of the injured party to a Facebook post in which a number of members of her family were tagged,” said a prosecuting lawyer.
He added that three people saw the image “in which the victim’s genitalia could be observed,” including two of her aunts who contacted their niece and took a screenshot of the offending image which was then passed to the police.
Woods, from the Garden Village in the town, was arrested and interviewed about the matter and “fully admitted his behaviour,” later pleading guilty to charges of harassment and using an electronic communication system to send a menacing, obscene of grossly offensive message, namely an explicit photograph.
The prosecuting lawyer told the court that throughout that day before the explicit image had been posted, Woods’ ex-partner had been busy so was not able to reply to the texts he had been “continually” sending.
“The messages became more and more menacing and he started a countdown on the text messages and she told him to stop,” said the lawyer adding that even after the explicit image had been posted, “the text conversation continued with the injured party pleading with him to delete the image.”
“Whilst the defendant stated that he had deleted it, he continues the threat saying ‘your dad’s going to f****** see this if you don’t hurry up’,” the lawyer told the court and although he said there were still further texts, she did not open what they were.
Defence barrister Neil Moore agreed with District Judge Alan White the offences are “absolutely appalling” but added that Woods was “full of remorse” for what he had done.
Mr Moore said while authorities on the mainland had passed laws concerning revenge porn, “it undoubtedly will come to NI” eventually.
“It appears that something had gone wrong” between the childhood sweethearts said the lawyer adding that “Woods had unfortunately taken the view that the blame for the difficulties” lay with his victim.
He conceded that Woods had posted the image “with the simple push of a button” and that action “must have been absolutely horrifying” for the lady, leaving the case “undoubtedly coming very, very close to the custody threshold” even though Woods had a completely clear record.
Mr Moore added however that a probation officer felt the PBNI “can assist him to ensure that something like his never happens again” and to help him deal more maturely with adult relationships.
“The image was deleted post haste and should never have been put up in the first place but shows the dangers of the internet,” said the lawyer, telling the judge that as far as Woods is concerned, “he wishes he could turn back the hands of time and not push the button in that phone or send the text messages”.
As well as the probation and community service orders, Judge White told Woods he would have to pay £600 to his victim by way of compensation for what he said was “shocking” behaviour.
“The texts and abuse you sent were bad enough without the picture that you sent to embarrass her in front of the world never mind her family,” declared the judge who told Woods his case “crosses the custody threshold”.
He said however that he was “always reluctant” to send a first time offender to prison as it “doesn’t achieve a lot” so with “some hesitation,” he was imposing the combination and compensation orders.
Allowing Woods six months to pay, Judge White warned him in no uncertain terms “make sure you pay that because if you don’t, there will be custody for non-payment and I won’t give you any more time”.
He also ordered that during the probation period, Woods must complete the “respectful relationships programme” which he believed Woods was “in severe need of”.