Tormented via Facebook

Leighton Winstanley
Leighton Winstanley

THE VICTIM of a Facebook death threat campaign today welcomed the prosecution of his tormentor and said it sends out a strong message to other social media abusers.

Neil Melling will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court later this month after admitting a campaign of harassment against 26-year-old Leighton Winstanley.

The bench at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates sent the case to Liverpool and remanded Melling, of Woolton Close, Bryn, on conditional bail, after warning that its sentencing powers were insufficient.

Mr Winstanley, a gym manager, was arrested and spent a night in the cells after a complaint to police by Melling that he been assaulted by him.

However police released him the following day without charge.

But Magistrates then heard that Melling, angry about the decision not to proceed with any charges, went on to launch a social media campaign of vicious threats against Mr Winstanley, who lives in Meadowcroft.

He told Mr Winstanley via Facebook that he was going to “snuff you out” and he was “£500 away from being less than nothing.”

He also said he could arrange a petrol bomb attack on his mum’s home and “pay some skank” to do it.

Patrick Heald, defending, insisted to the Magistrates that Melling, who was said to go on regular drink and drug binges, “never had any intention” of carrying out his vile threats.

The court heard that Melling was hoping to rebuild his life after relocating to the South West where he had the offer of a job.

But Mr Winstanley said that Melling had crossed the line when his threats were extended to his family and a warning that he would pay somebody to petrol bomb his mum’s home.

He revealed that Melling had bullied him as a schoolboy – and seemed to believe that he could continue to do so now that they were both adults. Mr Winstanley said that he was pleased that officers took the threats seriously enough to take action, even though they were typed on Facebook and not issued verbally.

He believes GMP’s action may stop others using social media in an attempt to intimidate in the wrongful belief that there won’t be consequences.

Mr Winstanley, who is manager of C.M. Health and Fitness in Bryn, said: “I suppose this started 12 years or so ago when I was about 14 and we would all knock about of a Friday night by the shops.

“As we have got older this attempt to bully me has now started all over Facebook because he thinks he can get away with it.”

Mr Winstanley said that he found himself being arrested for alleged assault after an incident when the two met in the street.

He had challenged Melling about abusive message against him on social media and a scuffle resulted in which, Leighton insists, he only defended himself.

But he was alarmed for his family after Melling posted a new bunch of messages when he was released without charge.

He said: “At least this coming to court will have put a stop to it. I wasn’t scared as such because I am big enough to look after myself but my mum was terrified. I didn’t start this but I am glad it is now over for my family’s sake.”