A STUDENT who accused a former schoolmate of being a paedophile in an online harassment campaign has been spared jail.
John Mark Waywell, 26, admitted harassing the neo-natal nurse with a succession of offensive posts on Twitter and Facebook.
Waywell was told he ‘merited prison’ at Burnley Magistrates’ Court and only escaped an immediate custodial sentence because a psychiatrist deemed he was mentally ill.
Waywell, of Ventnor Road, Haslingden, began his ‘campaign’ of harassment last September.
It included messages that branded the woman ‘Rossendale’s most notorious paedophile’ and that she had said: “‘I want to molest your children”.
In October, the messages were posted in groups such as Rawtenstall Buy, Swap and Sell, Bacup and Stacksteads Carnival and Rossendale Brownies and Guides, as well as on YouTube.
The victim twice reported the comments to Facebook, who removed them, but contacted police after a third incident.
On one occasion, a dance teacher confronted the victim after she read one of the comments and asked her if she had been arrested for molesting a child.
Waywell had initially claimed his posts were revenge for a joke she had made when they were watching the film American Pie in the same class at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School more than eight years ago.
Later, he conceded there was no provocation.
Alex Mann, prosecuting, said the ordeal had a ‘considerable impact’ and she had become ‘paranoid’ about leaving her home.
Rebecca Stanton, defending, said: “This is one of the most troubling and unusual cases I have ever dealt with, but mental health issues have arisen.
“He set his mind to hurt her in no uncertain terms. There can be no logical explanation whatsoever for this campaign.
“However, he would struggle with a custodial sentence as he struggles in society.”
She added her client would admit to being ‘a loner’ and he had hidden his court case from his mum until very recently.
Waywell, who has a previous caution for similar behaviour against a headteacher and possession of an offensive weapon, pleaded guilty to harassment in February. He underwent two psychiatric assessments before he was sentenced on Tuesday, which found he had persistent delusional disorder.
He was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and received a restraining order that forbids him, or anybody on his behalf, to contact the victim or mention her on any media.
He must also pay his victim, who has suffered depression and was forced to take time off from her job as a result of the harassment, £200 compensation.
Waywell has an offer to study at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales, in September.
Sentencing, Deputy District Judge Stott said: “Your terminology, your tweets and your comments on Facebook are disgusting. You merit prison.
“I am taking into account your age, your clean record and your mental health issues. You are clearly not unintelligent and have some chance of a future.
“Any repetition of this behaviour and your condition will not save you.”