Trolling, sexting and cyber abuse: bringing cases to court
New legal guidelines have been published to enable the police in England and Wales to identify certain online crimes more easily. They have been created to help the authorities to better use existing laws around harassment which were written before the internet age and which don’t reflect the realities of activities such as cyber-bullying, sexting and trolling. It is hoped that the recommendations could see many online offences brought to court in the same way as similar offline offences.
The guidelines that were drawn up by the Crown Prosecution Service (the agency responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police), have been created to help decide the legal consequences for people caught behaving abusively online.
So what exactly do the guidelines say? Well they are pretty complicated, involving all sorts of different laws. They also encourage legal prosecutors to consider each case individually to determine the appropriate levels of punishment. However, they do give a pretty good idea of the sorts of activities that could land people in trouble. These include:
- Trolling – Sending someone abusive messages or writing hurtful things about them. This might happen through social networks, emails, chat messages, texts.
- Revenge porn – When an individual shares explicit photos of someone else online without their consent.
- Sexting – Sharing nude or sexually provocative images with another person. This is only usually a problem if the messages are unwanted or if they’re being used in circumstances that involve grooming, exploitation or bullying.
- Virtual mobbing – This term describes the act of getting lots of people to gang up on someone using technology. For instance this could be encouraging people to bully someone using a hashtag or asking them to retweet an offensive image.
- Doxxing – Sharing someone’s personal details online such as their address or their bank details.
In each case there are lots of factors to consider, such as how often the abuse occurs and how severe it is. In a lot of circumstances the offences may not result in a criminal prosecution but, where the harassment is severe, the proposed guidelines should help bring the abuser to court.
If you want to find out more about what you can do to protect yourself from cyber-bullying, trolling and online abuse, check out the Think You Know website: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/