Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media

Part A: Offences – Substantive

  1. Where social media is used to facilitate a substantive offence, prosecutors should proceed under the substantive offence in question, having regard as appropriate to the Hate Crime and VAWG sections below.
  2. The following are potential offences against the person, against public justice or sexual offences, with links to the relevant guidance, which prosecutors may consider: 
    • Making a threat to kill, contrary to section 16 Offences Against the Person Act 1861
    • Making a threat to commit criminal damage, contrary to section 2 Criminal Damage Act 1971
    • Harassment or stalking, contrary to sections 2, 2A, 4 or 4A Protection from Harassment Act 1997
    • Controlling or coercive behaviour, contrary to section 76 Serious Crime Act 2015
    • Blackmail, contrary to section 21 Theft Act 1968
    • Juror misconduct, contrary to sections 20A-G Juries Act 1974*
    • Contempt of court, contrary to the Contempt of Court Act 1981*
    • Publishing material which may lead to the identification of a complainant of a sexual offence, contrary to section 5 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992*
    • Intimidating a witness or juror, contrary to section 51 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
    • Breach of automatic or discretionary reporting restrictions, contrary to section 49 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and section 45 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999
    • Breach of a restraining order, contrary to section 5 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
      * Note that these offences require Attorney General’s consent to prosecute and should be referred to the DLA Team prior to any such submission 
    • Disclosing private sexual images without consent (“revenge pornography”), contrary to section 33 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015
    • Causing sexual activity without consent, or causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, or sexual communication with a child contrary to sections 4, 8, 13, 15A Sexual Offences Act 2003.
    • Taking, distribution, possessing or publishing indecent photographs of a child, contrary to section 1 Protection of Children Act 1978 Allegations contrary to Part III Public Order Act 1986 should be referred to Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division. 
  3. The act of setting up a false social networking account or website, or the creation of a false or offensive profile or alias could amount to a criminal offence, depending on the circumstance For example: 
    • The former estranged partner of a victim creates a profile of the victim on a Facebook page, to attack the character of the victim, and the profile includes material that is grossly offensive, false, menacing or obscene.
    • A “photoshopped” (digitally edited) image of a person is created and posted on a social media platform. Although many photoshopped images are humorous and inoffensive, others are disturbing or sinister, such as the merging of a person’s face with the nude body of another to create obscene images, which may be accompanied by offensive comment. 
  4. Depending on the circumstances, this may be a way in which one of the offences above are committed, or it may be a way in which a communications offence (as these include “false” communications or messages) is committed.

Author: Linda Turner

Coaching and Therapy Currently studying Psychotherapy , Cognitive psychology, Hypnotherapy. Qualified NLP, EMDR and CBT therapist. REIKI Master. I believe in truth, honesty and integrity! ≧◔◡◔≦

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