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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 16:40 GMT
E-mail stalker jailed

Comupter
The accused admitted sending the abusive e-mails


The first person to be convicted in Scotland for sending abusive e-mails has been jailed for nine months.

But former miner James Cook, 49, will be released in two weeks because of the time he spent in custody before his trial.


Any offence involving the abuse of the internet will be looked at seriously in my court and I will take a firm view to discourage it
Sheriff Robin McEwen
Cook, a father-of-three, went on trial at Ayr Sheriff Court for carrying out a six-month campaign against a 23-year-old student by using electronic messages to terrorise her.

The trial ended when Cook admitted reduced charges of sending two abusive e-mails and confronting the information technology student Nicola Ferguson.

Guilty plea

The case, in which Cook faced a total of nine charges, was expected to last three weeks but ended after just two days when the Crown accepted his guilty plea following three hours of legal debate.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Robin McEwan said Scotland's wide-ranging breach of the peace law was able to adapt to deal with Internet harassment.

Many women are said to be under threat
"I have read and been made aware about what I hear is apparently called 'cyber-stalking' but these neoligisms are simply only ingredients of breach of the peace.

"Having heard all the circumstances I take the view that it was a particularly nasty and aggravated type of behaviour given all the circumstances of the case."

The sheriff added: "Any offence involving the abuse of the internet will be looked at seriously in my court and I will take a firm view to discourage it."

Special defence

Cook, from Sorn in Ayrshire, had denied stalking Miss Ferguson, making threatening phone calls and writing offensive messages about her on road signs, walls and garage doors.

He had lodged a special defence blaming his three children and another woman for a campaign of abuse against her at her grandparents home in Catrine.

Cook admitted sending abusive and threatening e-mails to her on 20 June and 3 July last year and putting her in a state of fear and alarm.

He also admitted confronting her at her mother's home in Ayr in July last year and breaching the peace.

Cook, who has previous convictions, further admitted possessing a shotgun at his home.

Miss Ferguson and Cook's estranged wife Joyce, 46 , were both witnesses in the case.

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See also:
06 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Internet stalking curbs plan
18 Oct 99 |  Entertainment
Stalking the stars
12 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Public fears prompt stalking law review

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