Craig Warhurst

Facebook troll has day in court after stalking women

A STALKER who hacked into the Facebook accounts of two former school friends and spread insidious lies about them and their families has avoided jail.

Martin Thomas Brown, 21, pleaded guilty in Bundaberg Magistrates Court to two counts of unlawful stalking against two women in April this year and between August 28 and October 31 last year.

Prosecutor Sergeant Andrew Burgess said Brown met one woman when attending Bundaberg State High School and then came across her working at a fast food outlet.

Later an unknown male made a call to the store's manager, falsely claiming the woman was stealing money and should be sacked. Brown later verbally abused the woman.

Sgt Burgess said when the woman had a single-vehicle car crash and claimed insurance, Brown contacted the insurance company "providing information alleging her claim was fraudulent and she'd been drinking".

Sgt Burgess said the woman's Facebook account had been hacked into, her password compromised and messages left saying she was "a bad friend" or containing derogatory content.

He said Brown posted more content in April that was offensive and harassing and the victim's mother got a phone call from a male calling her daughter a "sl*t".

When the man called again the family put it on speaker phone and Brown's voice was recognised while making another derogatory comment about the victim and falsely accusing her father of throwing his wife down the stairs.

In another incident Brown contacted the mother's work manager and falsely said she was supplying alcohol to minors and it was not appropriate for her to hold a Blue Card.

The call was described as "aggressive and intimidating".

Calls were made to another workplace where allegations were made about the girl's brother, the caller saying he should be sacked.

Sgt Burgess said the woman, whose email account was also hacked, felt nervous and frightened that she was being watched.

Another young woman distanced herself from Brown as she felt their friendship "was becoming weird" and blocked him from Facebook.

But she then received a Snapchat message asking her to "unblock" him, but she said no.

Sgt Burgess said Brown replied that it was rude and he would have to hack her account, which he did.

"She caught him trying to throw eggs at her mother's house. He'd drive slowly past her grandmother's house (when she was staying there). She felt her privacy was invaded, felt anxiety, and was scared what he would do next," Sgt Burgess said.

When arrested, Brown made frank admissions to detectives about sending the messages, saying he guessed the passwords.

Sgt Burgess said Brown made two calls to a woman's workplace saying she was unfit to work there and had done this to upset her daughter.

"It is extremely serious. A number of people had their lives turned upside down from what he has done, hacking a Facebook account and making allegations," said Sgt Burgess, who sought a jail term.

In submission barrister Nick Larter successfully sought a jail term not be imposed on his client.

Instead he asked for supervised probation to allow Brown's rehabilitation, saying it was best done through workplace engagement.

Mr Larter asked the court to consider leniency by not recording a conviction because of Brown's age, submitting documentation on the number of non-conviction orders issued by courts.

 

Magistrate Belinda Merrin ordered Brown to complete 180 hours of unpaid community service and serve two years of supervised probation after taking into account his youth, co-operation with police and lack of criminal history.

She said Brown made insidious accusations against people and used his abilities "to create terror and fear in the lives of two people and their families".

"You attempted to ruin their lives in a social sense and in relation to their work," Ms Merrin said.

She reminded Brown how he complained of being bullied at school yet had gone on to do the same.

"You accused a man of committing domestic violence against his wife. I find this very insidious. To ring a workplace saying (staff) are giving drugs and alcohol to children is absolutely disgusting," she said.

"You felt slighted when they ended their friendship with you."

A conviction was recorded and Brown was ordered not to go near the families for five years.


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