A MAN who contacted a journalist through Instagram regarding coverage of Brexit and said he hoped they received a “bullet to the brain,” has been given a three months jail term at Ballymena Magistrates Court.
Ryan McKillop (40) was sentenced at Ballymena Court on Thursday after previously pleading guilty to sending a menacing message by an electronic communications network to a “journalist” – not named in court – connected with The Guardian newspaper in London.
A prosecution lawyer said McKillop’s message was sent on September 1 last year which said: “As a supporter of the Far Right I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I hope you get a bullet to the brain”.
The message said the Far Right was taking over “all of Europe slowly but surely”.
The message continued: “When we are in charge all you liberals, traitors and fake news journalists…will be first up against the wall”.
The prosecutor said police found the Instagram account was registered to McKillop.
The prosecution lawyer said the defendant admitted to police he had sent the message but that McKillop didn’t believe it was “threatening or menacing”.
The prosecutor said the defendant, of Bank Road in Larne, told police he had sent the message in a “state of anger” as McKillop had said the “injured party was calling for the Brexit vote to be overturned”.
The lawyer said McKillop believed such a call had “amounted to treason”.
Defence solicitor Sara Edge said it had been a “crime of political passion gone wrong”.
However, she said, in a world where so much is posted on social media there comes with it a “responsibility to behave in a civilised manner” and people had to be accountable for what they say and do on the internet.
The defence solicitor said McKillop accepted his behaviour had “exceeded what was reasonable”.
She said he had “learnt his lesson” and said a pre-sentence report showed the defendant now had an insight into how his message “came across to” the victim.
The lawyer said the defendant was currently unemployed but “on the cusp” of attempting to open a taxi business.
District Judge Nigel Broderick told McKillop – who, because of covid restrictions at court, watched on through a video link from his solicitor’s office: “The court takes a very dim of this”.
He added: “We live in a civil society and freedom of the press is to be cherished”.
The judge said it seemed to be in the modern world that those with access to social media “feel somewhat immune from the laws of the land”.
Judge Broderick said there had to be a “deterrent element” in his sentencing regarding those who so “blatantly challenged” journalists who were doing nothing else than bringing news to society.
After receiving a three months jail term the defendant had bail of £500 fixed for appeal against the sentence.