A Lurgan man who posted a “grossly offensive” animated image of murder victim Natalie McNally singing a James Brown song was handed a 12 month sentence on Friday.
While Kian Withers claimed he posted the video of the recently murdered mum-to-be to “lighten the mood”, Judge Patrick Lynch KC warned that “those who skulk in the safety of their own home and disseminate offensive material must realise the abhorrence that engenders in the public”.
Ordering the 22-year-old to serve three months in jail and nine months under licence, the Craigavon Crown Court judge warned that “the message must go out from the courts that this behaviour will not be tolerated and those who perpetrate such offences will face sentences of imprisonment”.
At an earlier hearing Withers, from James Street, admitted a single count of committing an act outraging public decency between December 22nd and 29th last year.
Judge Lynch outlined how police received a complaint from Ms McNally’s cousin regarding a Facebook comment from an account named John John.
The ten second video showed murder victim Ms McNally in her graduation gown seemingly singing the James Brown hit I feel good.
“I can’t understand why someone would want to post such a horrible thing at such a difficult time for the family,” Ms McNally’s cousin told police.
Withers was “rapidly identified as the perpetrator of this outrageous” material. After he was arrested and cautioned, he told police “I thought it would be funny”.
During police interviews, he claimed he had been scrolling through social media and had spotted an app which could animate still images. Using Natalie’s graduation photo, he used the app to put the James Brown soundtrack to it because “I though it might lighten the mood”.
Judge Lynch told the court he had received defence medical reports showing that Withers had endured an unsettled upbringing, had been bullied and expelled from school, lived in a dozen foster homes and suffered from emotionally unstable personality disorder for which he took medication.
At the time he posted the videos Withers had stopped taking his medication as it “made him feel numb” but the judge said he doubted whether the defendant had as little insight as he claimed.