Court reporter Stephanie Finnegan has described how she dealt with the social media backlash from what she labelled the biggest court story in 2018.
The 25-year-old reporter at LeedsLive successfully challenged a reporting restriction imposed in the case of Tommy Robinson, who had been charged with Contempt of Court.
It meant the media could report that Robinson had been jailed for 13 months after he used Facebook Live to broadcast details of one of the ongoing trials of the Huddersfield grooming gang. He was later freed on appeal in August.
Stephanie said: “I knew there was going to be a lot of interest, so I prepared a twitter thread.”
The thread sparked a total of four million views, and Finnegan then became the target of internet trolls with hundreds of death and rape threats.
She told Yorkshire Voice: “Remember to lock down your social media and be careful with it, as you never know when you may be thrown into the public eye.”
Stephanie Finnegan told guests attending Journalism and Media Week at Leeds Trinity University that supporters of Tommy Robinson accessed her address from social media and she and her family received threats.
Robinson supporters also shared personal pictures of Stephanie on holiday which were trolled.
She said: “To do court reporting, in general, you have to be quite tough skinned anyway because you have to listen to really horrific cases and you don’t really just have the option to walk out if it gets really gritty and bad.
“You sit feet away from a murderer, you sit beside the murderer’s family and the victim’s family – and all the while they are looking at you thinking ‘I hate you because you are putting my life out there’.
“They’re so angry at the case and what is going on in their lives that they take it out on you. You have to be prepared to deal with that.”
Finnegan told the audience, however, that she had no regrets about publicising the case.
“You genuinely just have to be prepared for a good deal of stress really.
“I know court reporters who don’t even have twitter or social media because of people trying to contact them that they don’t want to hear from.
“I just dealt with it by not responding to the comments too much and just trying to stay professional.”