While Sabine McNeill still faces her final sentencing hearing on 9 January, one aspect of her sentence has already been put in motion.
At the first hearing on 19 December 2018, it was decided that a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) would be put in place, and that the restraining order which was put in place by HHJ Worsley in 2016 would remain the same.
According to the Sentencing Council,
A Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) is an order which is available on conviction for any criminal offence by any criminal court, introduced by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (ABCPA 2014, s.22) with effect from 20 October 2014. It replaces the former powers of the court to make orders such as an ASBO or a drinking banning order on conviction.
A CBO is an order designed to tackle the most serious and persistent anti-social individuals where their behaviour has brought them before a criminal court. The anti-social behaviour to be addressed does not need to be connected to the criminal behaviour, or activity which led to the conviction. However, if there is no link the court will need to reflect on the reasons for making the order.
In contrast to a restraining order, which only governs behaviour which takes place after the order is put in place,
A CBO may:
Prohibit the offender from doing anything described in the order (‘a prohibition’), and/or
Require the offender to do anything described in the order (‘a requirement’)(ABCPA 2014, s22(5))
One condition of Sabine’s CBO requires the removal from the internet of blogs and other material pertaining to the Hampstead SRA hoax. HHJ Sally Cahill QC ordered that as of that date, it was now appropriate to start removing material, and that this process would take place in accordance with a court-imposed timeline.
We’re provisionally pleased to note that work on removing Sabine’s Hampstead-related material does seem to have begun. For example, her Facebook account (which used the name “Sabine Kurjo”) has been entirely removed:
As one of our readers pointed out, while Sabine’s ebook remains online, most of the links contained in it point to non-existent blogs or sites. For example, the link to Sabine’s Vid.me channel now looks like this:
Granted, Vid.me went out of business about a year ago, so that was an easy one. However, it’s encouraging to note that the only live link in the list is to Sabine’s LinkedIn account, which does not seem to contain any Hampstead-related material.
The blog which Sabine called her “most popular”, Victims Unite, is gone:
All traces of the infamous Whistleblower Kids blog, meanwhile, have vanished:
Some things do remain online, however. The ebook itself, which we won’t link from here, still contains a great deal of material which should probably be removed; and we’ve noticed that both of Sabine’s Twitter accounts remain intact, at least for now. The first, @SabineMcNeill, contains references to the Hampstead case, including to protected witnesses; the second, @sabinekmcneill, seems to have been abandoned in 2011.
Will the removal of all this material make any real difference to the amount of filth currently online about Hampstead and those who were falsely accused?
The nature of the internet means that even if the court manages to extinguish every reference Sabine has ever made, it will be impossible to completely erase all traces of this horrific event and the lies it has spawned. There will always be copies and screenshots of the videos, the blog posts, the petitions.
So why bother taking Sabine’s material down, then?
In part, its removal will help to deter Sabine from continuing her campaign of stalking and harassment, once she is released from prison (whether that be sooner or later will depend on what happens Tuesday).
Probably more important, though, is that removing Sabine’s material serves as a kind of sign-post. The court has now declared itself keen to take a more active role in ensuring people’s right to remain free from this sort of online harassment.
This decision comes very late in the game: next month will mark the fourth anniversary of the Hampstead hoax going viral online, and this is the first really significant attempt to rein it in. Despite the hoaxers’ claims that the government is constantly stifling their right to make false claims against innocent people, this hoax has in fact been allowed to grow and spread unchecked for four years.
We can only hope that this is just the beginning.