Hotel receptionist, 35, who sent pictures of her ex-boyfriend’s genitals to his new girlfriend when she discovered they were dating during a child custody battle, avoids jail after pleading guilty to harassment
A hotel receptionist who sent explicit pictures of her ex-boyfriend’s genitals to his new girlfriend after discovering they were dating during a bitter custody battle, has been spared jail.
Samantha Webster, 35, bombarded Catherine Harrison with 200 messages after finding out James McKinnell was seeing her in legal documents during a family court hearing over their daughter.
During the online onslaught Webster claimed she wanted to ‘warn’ Miss Harrison about Mr McKinnell’s ‘behaviour and lies’ and even threatened to have his legs ‘snapped in half.’
The unwanted contact was said to have caused ‘serious distress’ to Miss Harrison, who moved to a different town. In a statement the victim said: ‘I received 200 Facebook messages from Samantha Webster.
‘After the first five messages I told her not to contact me further but she completely ignored me and carried on sending messages. She subsequently started to ring me. She did not want to leave me alone and continued.
Samantha Webster (pictured), 35, bombarded Catherine Harrison with 200 messages after finding out James McKinnell was dating her
Webster (pictured) claimed she wanted to ‘warn’ Miss Harrison about Mr McKinnell’s ‘behaviour and lies’ and even threatened to have his legs ‘snapped in half.’
‘I advised her to stop but she continued to make threats saying she would send someone to break James’s legs.’
When quizzed mother of two Webster, from Poulton-with-Fearnhead, Warrington, Cheshire, said she had not known Mr McKinnell was in a new relationship and had wanted to stop Miss Harrison from dating him.
She claimed she had only sent five or six messages but that they were each a screenshot of WhatsApp pages containing multiple messages between her and Mr McKinnell, sent to prove she had been in a relationship with him. She said she had not deliberately sent the explicit images which were included in the exchange.
At Warrington Magistrates’ Court, Webster pleaded guilty to harassment and was sentenced to eight weeks in jail, suspended for 12 months with a requirement she completes 25 rehabilitation days.
The court heard the couple who had a daughter together during a five-year relationship had broken up amid allegations of Mr McKinnell being ‘controlling’.
The pair took out out non-molestation orders against each other at a family court over custody of the little girl – but just seven days later Webster posted a message online about Mr McKinnell saying ‘someone was ready to snap his legs in half’.
Robert Earl, prosecuting, said Webster’s messaging blitz, between August 11 and October 25, was ‘clearly designed to cause distress’. Despite being ‘told to stop’ after the first five messages, relentless Webster continued, sending 195 more.
The prosecutor added the bombardment and threats to Miss Harrison’s new partner had a ‘massive impact’ on the relationship and her personal life, with both having suffered ‘severe distress and embarrassment’ from the explicit image.
‘She feels scared to go out,’ Mr Earl told the court. ‘She does not feel safe in her own house. She talks about moving, which she said is not acceptable.
Webster pleaded guilty to harassment and was sentenced to eight weeks in jail, suspended for 12 months
‘The messages were abusive and full of threats including sexual images and clearly the conduct was intended to maximise distress. The distress was very serious.
‘Catherine Harrison feels so distressed that she has moved to another town. The only connection between the victim and the defendant is that the victim is going out with the defendant’s ex-partner and that seems to be why she is targeted in this way.’
The court heard Webster was given a community order in May for a public order offence involving a neighbour. She was given a suspended prison sentence in October for breaching the non-molestation order against Mr McKinnell.
A probation officer said: ‘From what I am led to believe, Miss Webster was controlled by Mr McKinnell in their relationship and she still feels a level of control. Obviously there’s some blame game going on as with any domestic incident which sometimes comes to light after the court hearing.’
In mitigation defence solicitor Julian Touchener-Ellis, said that when his client had discovered, her ex was in a new relationship with Miss Harrison she became ‘distraught’.
‘She did not know anything about this and she thought she had better tell the victim here about it. She went about it the wrong way but it was not 200 messages,’ the solicitor told the court.
Webster’s behaviour was branded ‘unacceptable’ by a deputy district judge
‘She forwarded lengthy WhatsApp messages to prove that there was an ongoing relationship. She did not think about what might be on it. She sent the sexual images to the victim but that was not her intention. It was to prove that the relationship existed. But there was no excuse for the way it happened.
‘Clearly the conduct was a shock to the victim but there was no intention to hurt her in any way. Her intentions seem to be that they were to warn her about Mr McKinnell’s behaviour and his lies. She was not in the best frame of mind.’
Sentencing Webster Deputy District Judge Arlegh Davies told her: ‘Your behaviour was unacceptable even if you were still in a relationship, and not all parties agree with that. You cannot behave in such a manner.’
As well as receiving a suspended prison sentence, Webster was also issued with a restraining order banning her from contacting either Miss Harrison and Mr McKinnell for two years, and ordered to pay £274 in costs and victim surcharge.
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