A Facebook post in which a woman falsely claimed to have been the victim of an Asian grooming gang ripped a community apart , a court has heard.
Eleanor Williams, 22, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on Tuesday after she made a series of false rape allegations.
In May 2020, she posted images of herself with a swollen eye on Facebook and claimed she had been beaten, raped and trafficked by Asian men.
However, a court later heard she had caused the injuries to herself using a hammer.
Her post sparked outrage in her home town of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, with public demonstrations targeting the local newspaper, the Asian community and police.
One restaurant had its windows smashed and fire alarms had to be installed at vulnerable premises, while journalists were threatened and one moved out of her home.
Racist graffiti was sprayed on walls, the local newspaper was boycotted and police officers were threatened.
Watch: Judge sentences Eleanor Williams to 8.5 years in prison over false allegations
During sentencing remarks on Tuesday which were broadcast live from Preston Crown Court, Honorary Recorder of Preston Judge Robert Altham said Williams had shown "no significant signs of remorse".
The judge said the Facebook post caused what police described as a "turbulent" period in Barrow, in displays of public anger that had not been seen in the town for 30 years.
The Facebook post was shared more than 100,000 times, but the judge described her allegations as "complete fiction".
At the time she made her Facebook post, Williams was already on bail having been charged with seven counts of perverting the course of justice.
Superintendent Matthew Pearman, from Cumbria Police, said Williams’ allegations led to “public displays of mass anger” in Barrow, with protests held outside the police station and on a retail park.
Videos of English Defence League (EDL) founder Tommy Robinson in the town were shown in court.
In a letter read to the court, Williams said she did not want Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, to come to the town.
She said: “I do not agree with his views or opinions.”
In the letter to the judge, she said: “I’m not saying I’m guilty but I know I have done wrong on some of this and I’m sorry.
“I’m devastated at the trouble that has been caused in Barrow, if I knew what consequences would have come from that status I never would have posted it.”
In statements read to the court on Monday, three of the men Williams wrongfully accused said they had attempted to take their own life after her allegations.
Mohammed Ramzan, 43, a business owner who Williams alleged trafficked her, told the court: “I have had countless death threats made over social media from people all over the world because of what they thought I was involved in.”
Williams, from Teasdale Road, Walney, claimed Mr Ramzan groomed her from the age of 12, put her to work in brothels in Amsterdam, and sold her at an auction there.
But the court heard that, at the time she was in the Netherlands, his bank card was being used at a B&Q in Barrow.
Supt Pearman said: “In May 2020, the defendant posted images of her injuries to Facebook, claiming she had been the victim of sexual and physical abuse.
“More than two years on from that act, we are still working to repair the damage done in the community.
“In the aftermath of the social media post and Williams’ subsequent arrest, protests began which, whatever their motive, negatively impacted public confidence in the police in Barrow. In some quarters, protesters sought to actively discourage victims from reporting abuse to the police.
“The fall-out also led directly to hate crime being perpetrated against members of the Asian community.
“This has been a lengthy, complex and ultimately tragic case, as well as a dark period for Barrow."
Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Stalker, head of crime for Cumbria Constabulary, said: “Whilst we have seen extremely serious offences committed and major investigations carried out in Cumbria, this case is unique in magnitude and impact it had and the far-reaching consequences which resulted from it – the catalyst of which was a singular social media post.
“It is something we are continuing to recover from in terms of rebuilding trust and confidence within our communities and with partners – all as a result of claims that were made maliciously and without foundation."
Watch: Woman jailed for falsely claiming to be victim of Asian grooming gang