back to article Murder victim-mocking troll jailed

The penalty for crossing the line online can be pretty severe – as internet troll Colm Coss discovered to his cost last week. Mr Coss, 36, from Ardwick, was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for persistently leaving vicious and hurtful messages on tribute sites for the deceased. Among his targets were a Facebook page for the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    ...You brits lambaste the french for having a law against insulting public servants, when you have a law against insulting anyone at all?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      You're either trolling or you fail to understand the difference between an insult and a joke, and the guy that want a blow job from the politician in France didn't just do so once either - so he probably deserved what he got as well.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Is it only me

      That finds:


      Mr Coss was said to have found the comments "amusing" . They gave him no sexual arousal but "he enjoyed the comments made in reaction".


      Creepy on so many levels? Said by whom? Who thought he might be sexually aroused in this context? What does that say about THEIR state of mind? What if he was, anyway, would it be worse?

      1. Thomas 18

        Im assuming its a legal thing

        the sexual arousal bit is probably a kicker the prosecution can add in to bump you up to the next bracket sentencing wise. Kind of like they can bump you up from drunk and disorderly to resisting arrest with a side order of threatening behaviour (not speaking personally ofcourse).

      2. JaitcH

        Sex, paedophilia and terrorism are Plod trigger words for magistrates

        Magistrates are the lowest form both legally and in stature but they are attractive to government as they are cheap. They make pronouncements of little worth and give talks to Women's Institutes.

        Plod uses key words which are picked up by the ignorant magistrate who adds her prejudice and nails the victim.

        The defendant is obviously sick and should be treated so.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it only me #

        Psychiatrists have to earn a living somehow, if it wasn't for Freud they'd be completely useless.

        I mean completely unemployable.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

        "Creepy on so many levels? Said by whom? Who thought he might be sexually aroused in this context? What does that say about THEIR state of mind? What if he was, anyway, would it be worse?"

        The sexual arousal aspect was because of the content of the messages Colm sent, in many of which he described himself performing sex acts on the people the tributes sites were about.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Probably not, but...

        "Who thought he might be sexually aroused in this context? What does that say about THEIR state of mind?"

        This is a standard consideration on any psychological profile.

        "What if he was, anyway, would it be worse?"

        Yes. Without sexual arousal he is just a c*nt. WITH sexual arousal he is a sick c*nt. One often more dangerous than the other.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Missed the point..

      Treating public servants differently to ordinary people?

      one law for them another for everyone else..

      Liberté, <s>égalité</s>, fraternité

  2. Nuke

    "Mister" Cross?

    Why dignify this bar steward with the title of "Mr", several times in TFA.

    Just referring to him as "Cross" would be more than good enough.

    1. Mark 65

      Terms of reference

      Dispicable fuck-stick would me more applicable still

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should be more of this

    Jailing people for messages that are "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character" should neatly cover any press releases by the Tories, Labour or ACPO.

    After all kids, prison works.

  4. Smallbrainfield

    Why would you circulate a leaflet about being a troll?

    The bloke is clearly a loon.

    1. Gav

      He was an unwanted child

      He circulated the leaflet because above all else he craves, like all trolls, attention. If you lack any real talent that might gain you attention, trolling is ideal. What makes him uniquely stupid is that he went real-life. Most talentless attention seekers would have switched to X-Factor auditions at that point.

      He wasn't so stupid as to go around local graveyards trolling funeral parties (too much risk of getting a well deserved kicking), but he still needed the attention. He's a loon, but he had his own logic. If trolling is the only thing you're good at, why hide it? So leafleting probably seemed a good idea at the time.

      As to *why* he needed the attention; I'm sure there's some sob story in the background there.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    "Coss's identity became known when he circulated a leaflet to his neighbours boasting of his status as an "internet troll"."

    If the dude had been universally trolled by life then he might have had a case (do unto others and all that), but if he just doesn't have the ability to empathise and understand that only the bereaved get to put on bravado in the face of death and loss, then the dude is a Rodger Hunt in need of friends that can contain the bastard.

  6. Sir Runcible Spoon


    Let's hope that his stint in Chokey will suffice as far as attention seeking goes.

    If someone were to take the piss out of my loved one after a recent loss and still suffering from grief, I really don't think I'd be responsible for my actions.

    Grief can take you that way sometimes and this guy is lucky he didn't get personal visits from some of his victims.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    "...he circulated a leaflet to his neighbours..."

    The real internet troll does not need to campaign for himself other than trolling.

  8. Bluenose
    Paris Hilton

    Celebrity rules

    yet another w****r gets their 15 minutes of fame. As soon as pleaded guilty he should have been foced to wear a sign in the street saying "I am a t****r". Would be cheaper than prison and less likely to encourage him to continue his behaviour when he gets out.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Celebrity rules

      You can swear around here, you know. And 'tosser' isn't really a swear. And I'm not sure it's quite strong enough for this fucker.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Guess who's been watching the IT Crowd?


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ah yes tosser...

        I was pondering why he would have a sign saying 'Im a todger'! dickhead I could understand...

        1. Gangsta


          I though he was referring to being a member of Del Boy's family at my first glance,

          (yes I know it doesn't fit)

      3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Re: Celebrity rules

        Thanks. I did not figure out what the "t****r" was since I've expected something rude.

        @Bluenose: please avoid this foolish self-censoring in the future and leave it to Ms Bee to reject too bad to publish comments. I know what I'm talking about.

        1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Re: Celebrity rules

          He does you know.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yay or nay?

    I'm for setting up a tribute site for Colm Cross (which sounds like a place-name, incidentally).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @David W

    comprehension and understanding are not your strong points, are they?

    Why don't you get a grown up to explain the difference and then you will be welcome to join the debate.

    1. Ron Murray

      I dunno ...

      I think he has a point, actually. Why should it be a crime to offend someone? I don't think you can argue that anybody's suffered any material loss at the hands (fingers?) of this nitwit. They probably _feel_ worse, granted, but why on earth should we criminalise making people feel bad? Is this a new definition of thought crime?

      If you still think offending people should be punished, think on this: where do you draw the line? Should there even be one?

      Yes, this turkey is a grade-A arsehole, but if we were to make that a crime we'd have 80% of the population in the clink.

      1. Guido Esperanto


        Offending someone shouldnt be an offence, unless the person doing the offending is extremely callous and relentless, by which point it stops being offence and becomes harrassment.

        The comedian Steve Hughes makes a good point about being offended. "When did sticks and stones may break my bones become irrelevant"


        To paraphrase,

        "you said '########' about me, Im offended!"

        "so what? be offended"

        This Cross fellow from what I've read was certainly callous and relentless, therefore upgraded himself from being a troll to becoming an harassing troll.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      oh, no...

      ...I comprehend just fine: for most Reg readers, punishing speech with prison is fine, as long as you disagree with the speech.

      If you -agree- with the speech, then the policy is to rail against big brother / political correctness gone mad / the daily mail.

      I'm not sure whether to put many commenters' wholehearted support of jail-for-thought as a result of muddled thinking and knee-jerk anger, or as a bone-chilling example of people who truly believe that purely verbal attacks which contain no direct threats or libel should be punished criminally.

      Maybe it's just my dumb merkin hick side shining through, but the idea of the government deciding what I'm allowed to say and think is horrifying.

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: oh, no...

        Yeah, but harassment is a very big grey area indeed, and I think this sounds like it's stepping into that. I think it's fair enough to suggest this is approaching the limits of free speech (and it does have limits although we must be careful not to impose more).

  11. Dances With Sheep


    > he should have been foced to wear a sign in the street saying "I am a tosser".

    It wouldn't work mate.

    What would happen is all the chav's made to wear the sign would just band together and say "look at us, we're a bunch of tossers", before nutting little old ladies and stealing their pensions.

  12. Lghost
    Thumb Up

    Re: Celebrity rules

    +1 to Ms Bee

  13. Geoffrey W


    I'd like to see the US do something similar to the members of the Westboro Church ("God Hates Fags") who deliver their insulting messages in person at the funerals of dead soldiers.

  14. Jake Rialto 1


    However disasteful his remarks were, everyone seems to have missed the point that the guy was locked up for free speech.

    It's not big and it wasn't clever, but alot of people on here sound like Ben the Prisoner from The Life of Brian - nail em up!

    The authorities in the UK have targeted an individual, which is actually quite scary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Freedom of Speech

      @Jake Rialto 1

      I don't think you understand what freedom of speech is. It's the freedom to have opinions contrary to others.

      That doesn't mean that you can lie to, libel or insult people just as it doesn't mean you can walk into a crowded place and scream "Fire!"

      If you think about it for a milli-second or two, I'm sure you'll realise why this is the case.

      1. JaitcH

        Freedom of Speech, US style, is like Speakers Corner in Hyde Park

        Whilst you can say anything, there are few criminal penalties and civil recourse is allowed.It DOES mean you can LIE and INSULT people.

        Crying Fire! has been held to be a criminal offence.

        What this guy did would likely fall under poor taste and free speech.

        This is why so many chatrooms are hosted in the US as well as terrorism web sites.

  15. Anonymous John

    i don't have a problem with him being jailed.

    But why did the police police investigate, when all they had at the start was some leaflets admitting he was an Internet troll?

  16. Hooch181
    Thumb Up

    I would say...

    it's not a freedom of speech issue, my thinking for this is based on intent. What was this guys intention when he made the comments?

    If this guy had been saying something to make a point and it upset others then that is one thing, but from what I have gathered this guy just wanted to upset people in a frankly discusting way.

    It would be like standing in an airport and shouting "Bomb" to see what happens and then claiming your freedom of speech is being infringed when security arrest you.

    I'm all for freedom of speech, but I have no sympathy for this idiot!

  17. lotus49

    Fully deserved

    I am mystified why people are talking about his behaviour as merely offending people. What he did was no less than an assault. The fact that it didn't result in a physical injury is irrelevant.

    Imagine your young son was mauled to death by a dog (as happened in one of the cases) and someone taunted you over it (even going as far as claiming to have had sex with the bodies in some of the instances). This is not merely being offensive and cannot sensibly be compared to calling people rude names.

    I think he should think himself lucky to have received the sentence he did and I hope he receives the attention he craves in prison and once again upon his release.

  18. Tron Silver badge


    Why are we wasting money keeping an unpleasant but hardly dangerous individual in prison at the public expense? There are a lot of dangerous, violent types out there who don't get prison sentences when they physically attack people. The guy is an internet troll, not someone who is going to club you over the head with a hammer. Sticks and stones etc.

    With a history of mental illness, chucking him in bog-standard prison is absolutely shameful. The magistrate should be thrown out of the legal system. There are guidelines on this.

    I'm amazed his neighbours knew what an internet troll was. I suspect someone thought it was something to do with kiddie porn and phoned the old bill for that. I'm absolutely stunned that the police actually went round and nicked him for it. Usually the most you can get out of them is a crime number or the promise to send a PCSO round a week next Thursday. Again, did they not actually have a clue and had a check on his PC just to see?

    Is it illegal to be nasty? Or just a bit offensive? Or maybe abrasive, because one man's abrasive is another man's pointedly sarcastic and sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. Maybe low enough to merit a prison sentence? Slippery slope. Are we going to have to start being nice about the Government, Apple users and the French? Is that the sort of world you want to live in?

    If they imprison everyone who posts something offensive, then they aren't going to have enough lawyers or prison cells for all the copyright cases. And that's just when they've been through the comments on YouTube and the jokes on Sickipedia. By the time they hit the forums, they'll have to start releasing the lifers to make more space.

    For varying reasons some folk post things online that aren't very nice and might upset the delicate of sensibility. That's what moderators are for. Deal with it. Preferably without spending a sack load of public money and setting a precedent for abolishing online freedom of speech in the UK.

    Some of the opinion articles on El Reg might be deemed to be pretty offensive to the point of being trollish. Do you want to start vigorously self-censoring? Publishing a pro-Apple piece for every critical one, so you can't be accused of repeatedly being nasty to Steve?

    You have 'House Rules' and you moderate. It works for you. It should have worked in the cases the guy was posting in. He posts something nasty, it gets deleted, the process repeats, eventually he gets bored and gives up. It isn't a police/court/prison issue.

    The foundations of free speech are only secure when you defend people who you don't like and don't agree with, for saying things that piss you off, because you believe that society needs to have a bit of give and take built in. That a bit of abuse, some comments that are deleted and a few off-colour jokes are a small price to pay to keep speech free.

    You might just think that it serves him right. But a few years down the line, you may well find out what the phrase 'thin end of the wedge' means, when you, or your child, or an elderly relative with non-progressive views on multiculturalism, posts something online that upsets someone with money, contacts and a desire to make an example of someone who has annoyed them. They now have a precedent to work with, and that's all lawyers need to get stuck in.

  19. Decius


    Now that we've established that posting on the internet can result in prison time, we are left with the question: Who decides if a given comment is prison-worthy?

    I'm of mixed opinions, here on the west side of the pond in the cuntry (intentional) known by its acronym. For one, I'd like to see people who say that they support suicide jailed. "The only way im wearin it for them [gays] is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid." (sic)

    Then again, I'd like to see police officers prosecuted, or at least not permitted to resign without disgrace, for performing baseless strip searches of teenage females, or for harrasing others for personal gain. (All three of the above are either elected officials or currently running for office.)

    I don't trust the people who make laws. I don't trust the people who enforce laws. Why should I trust laws?

  20. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Custodial sentence!!

    So i as a tax payer have to pay to house this numpty in prison for 18 weeks where they get freeview TV, games consoles and pool tables to play on?

    The guy is undoubtly a dick but surely a couple hundred hours community service picking up litter, supervision by the probation service working on his social skills and a 12 month ban from using the internet is a more fitting punishment?

  21. Barney Carroll


    Completely agree with Tron. There's a lot of worrying attitudes here in the confusion of punishable law and "it's just not nice". I find it particularly bizarre that the court would see these apparently baseless, unprofitable and generally senseless but non-damaging acts to be so offensive as to merit incarceration yet dismiss mental illness out of hand - the ethical logic at work is unsettling. And the urge to get sexuality in there is just sinister. Does that make it worse of a crime? If so, who's suffering here? Where is the extra damage? And how should a humane society react to that observation? More time in a cell, yeah?

    @Anonymous Coward 17:05

    Lying, libeling, insulting are all different things. Libel is a legal term which includes defamatory lies, and can be taken to court. The fact that you seem to think they're all pretty much the same thing as far as the argument goes is concerning. Did this bloke even commit any of the aforementioned acts? Even if he had, was that really specifically what you were concerned about, or do you just agree with the sentiment of locking people up for 'nasty types of stuff', leaving boring details aside?


    So it's not the effect of offense, but the intent to be offensive that is the problem? We're getting somewhere in terms of the popular judicial psychology at work, but in terms of specific legal application we have to be a bit more discerning, don't we (not a rhetorical question)? I mean, I'm horrified at the implications of what you consider to be the extent of human freedoms based on what you've expressed here, and I'd be worried about how you might act on a jury or in a situation of authority, but for my part I wouldn't have you locked up for it.

    First they came for the trolls who gloated the recently bereaved, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a troll who gloated at the recently bereaved. Then they came for the trolls who gloated at the recently incarcerated for free expression...

    @Sir Runcible Spoon

    I don't think you should be held responsible for your actions while under a violent rage either. Unless, of course, you hurt somebody's feelings by saying something nasty, in which case, it should go to the courts and my opinion would be a bit trivial. I don't make the rules.

    1. Hooch181

      Sure, I'll bite...

      Intent makes a lot of difference. If this guy had just offended someone with a statement that had a point then it would be obvious that his intent was not so much to offend as it was just getting a point accross...

      This guy on the other hand had gone out of his way to upset and insult people who were berieved in a most disgusting way with no merits! Saying something to make a point, even if it's not popular is freedom of speech, saying something to upset people with no other intent is frankly being an Asshole!

      The Judge in this trial has in no way impeded on his right to free speech, they have just basically said that there are limits to what you can say without repurcussions! As in the real world there are things you do not say to someones face without repurcussions so why should the Internet be any different?

      Let's be honest here, this guy brought it on himself! We wouldn't even be having this discussion if he wasn't a complete ego-fag and plastered his name all over the place as an Internet Troll. If you want to talk about threats to freedom of speech look to this guy! It's people like him who are going to give governments the excuse they want to do away with Anonymous posting!

      Posting anonymously and trolling do have there responsibilities as well, or we'll all lose the privalege!

      As to your last paragraph, I'm calling Godwins! ;-)

      Good debate though...

  22. Frank Fisher
    Big Brother

    Offend someone, go to jail

    Nope. Wrong wrong wrong. He didn't hit anyone, didn't steal from anyone, didn't cause pyhsical harm - he annoyed people and upset people,and that is not reason enough to jail anyone. I offend and upset people every day. Mostly online. Will some of those pitiful leftie scrotes - the name Sunny Hundal leaps to mind - start demanding the CPS put me in jail?

    Nope. What this guy did was unpleasant, revolting, lunatic - but the correct response is to delete or ignore his comments and move on. Let's face it, you put a "tribute page" up on a public site, you are asking for trouble.

    Can anyone imagine here what would happen if Thatch popped her clogs and somone put a tribute paeg to her up on Facebook? Would the slavering hate-filled hordes who rush to gloat and abuse be locked up?

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Offend someone, go to jail

      If you put up a tribute page you're 'asking for trouble'? What kind of attitude is that?

      I bet this guy wouldn't have the cojones to go and show his arse to mourners at a funeral. Why are people such bastards on the internet? Yeah, I know, it facilitates it, but why do people feel the need to be such bastards in any medium?

      Everything about this is depressing. And yeah, I don't know that he should have been banged up either in terms of the law but morally he's beneath contempt, and anyone who can seriously defend him or sympathise with him (beyond the free speech angle which is still fairly spurious) isn't much better.

    2. Hooch181

      Do you...

      upset people with intention or is that just a byproduct?

      Sure people should do that in an ideal world, unfortunatly we don't. So people are going to react and unfortunatly because of people like the idiot who did this, we are all going to lose the right to post anonymously!

      More then likely not, but since when has the world been consistant?

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