Jailing everybody…The Crown Persecution Service outlines changes to widen the scope of prosecutions for insults on the internet

Posted: 11 October, 2016 in Internet, Internet Censorship
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Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

Crown Prosecution Service Social media users who encourage flame wars or retweet the doxing (revealing identifying information with malicious intent) of others are set to be punished more severely by British prosecutors.The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)’s latest Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media target doxing, online mobs, fake social media profiles and other social media misbehaviour.

Also included in the latest version of the guidance is a specific encouragement to prosecutors to charge those who egg on others to break social media speech laws. Those who encourage others to commit a communications offence may be charged with encouraging an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, warns the guidance.

In a Kafka-esque twist, the guidance also includes this chilling line, discussing how prosecutors can prove the criminal offence of sending a grossly offensive message, under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003:

The offence is committed by sending the message. There is no requirement that any person sees the message or be offended by it.

Another nasty touch is that the CPS will allow victims to decide whether crimes are deemed to be ‘hate crimes’ and therefore attract more severe penalties. The CPS policy consultation defines race/religion hate crimes as follows:

Crimes involving hostility on the basis of race or religion

The reporting and prosecution of hate crime are shaped by two definitions; one is subjective and is based on the perception of the victim and the other is objective and relies on supporting evidence.

Both the subjective and objective definitions refer to hostility, not hatred. There is no statutory definition of hostility and the everyday or dictionary definition is applied, encompassing a broad spectrum of behaviour.

We have an agreed definition with the police for identifying and flagging cases involving hostility on the basis of race or religion. The joint definition is:

Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or religion or perceived race or religion.

The equivalent paragraph an disability hate crime adds explaining how the CPS has waved its hands and extended the scope:

This definition is wider than the statutory definition, to ensure we capture all relevant cases:

The guidance also encourages prosecutors to treat social media crimes committed against persons serving the public more seriously than nasty words directed against their fellow members of the public. Similarly, coordinated attacks by different people should also attract greater prosecutorial attention.

Prosecution in all cases is said to be less likely if swift and effective action has been taken by the suspect and/or others, for example service providers, to remove the communication .

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