A 24-year-old Staffordshire man has narrowly escaped jail after admitting harassing someone on the social networking site Facebook.

John Maughan pleaded guilty to sending threatening and abusive messages through the site between January 1 and January 22 this year.

Maughan, of Kerria Centre, Glascote, Tamworth, was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, at Tamworth Magistrates’ Court.

The court was told unemployed Maughan was invited to be friends with the victim, Ben Jackson, on Facebook.

Prosecutor John Peel revealed that Maughan had been convicted of assaulting Mr Jackson in November last year and had received a one month prison sentence which ran concurrently to a custodial sentence he was already serving at the time.

After accepting Mr Jackson’s invite, the court heard early messages sent by Maughan included: “You’re fu***ing dead....watch out little boy”.

Initial responses from Mr Jackson included: “If you say so. Do I look bothered?” and “You’re talking s***”

But the last message sent by Maughan read: “My name is Ben Jackson and I’m a thieving little tramp who needs my head smashing in”.

Defending Mark Moore said: “What happened is that Mr Jackson registered as a friend with Mr Maughan on Facebook - a process that neccesitates Mr Jackson making contact with Mr Maughan,

“Mr Maughan’s fault is engaging with that.”

Magistrate Andrew Nelson said: “We have deliberated long and hard over this.

“We find this so serious because you have committed an offence involving an injured party who you have previously assaulted so soon after your release from prison that we sentence you to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months.”

Magistrates also imposed a restraining order on Maughan not to contact Mr Jackson in any way, including the internet, for an “indefinite” period.

Mr Nelson added: “If you breach any restrictions you will be brought back to court and I think it inevitable that you will be sent to prison.”