A man who is a suspect in the murder of Southampton schoolgirl has been jailed for refusing to provide his Facebook password to police.
Stephen Nicholson, 24, appeared by video-link at Southampton Crown Court this morning and pleaded guilty to the charge under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).
He was sentenced to 14 months in jail by Judge Christopher Parker QC.
Nicholson, a family friend who was staying in Lucy's home until shortly before her death, refused access to his Facebook to detectives investigating any private messages sent between himself and the 13-year-old.
Lucy, who lived in Mansel Road, Southampton, was found in woodland at Southampton Sports Centre on July 26 having been stabbed to death.
While being questioned on suspicion of murder and sexual activity with a child, Nicholson twice refused to give detectives his Facebook password.
They are now facing ‘difficulties’ in trying to obtain the messages from the Silicon Valley social media giant, prosecutor Matthew Lawson said.
He added: ‘Police have to go through a lengthy procedure in relation to that, therefore the police investigation into Lucy's murder has been considerably obstructed.’
Defending Nicholson, Richard Tutt told the court his client had provided an excuse to the police.
‘Mr Nicholson explained to the police when requested to provide the information that within his Facebook they will find information relating to cannabis and he was concerned that, should the information be revealed, that would put him or members of his family at risk,’ he said.
Judge Christopher Parker QC said Nicholson had caused a ‘very significant delay’ to the investigation and has made police inquiries ‘that much more difficult’.
‘The excuse you put forward for not providing your password was, and remains, wholly inadequate when compared with the urgent need for that information to be provided,’ he added.
Nicholson, wearing a grey tracksuit, appeared in court via video-link from Winchester Prison and spoken only to confirm his particulars and admit the charge.
He was first arrested by Hampshire Police on suspicion of murder and sexual activity with a child.
Nicholson was bailed before being charged under Ripa.
A decision as to whether to charge him with further offences is expected on October 27.