Control your behaviour

Many offences can be committed in the heat of the moment, or drink, the typing of a comment that cannot then be taken back. Trolling, or sending abusive messages online, can be an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003, with stiff penalties in both cases. Revenge porn, for example publishing intimate images of an ex-partner without their consent, is now a criminal offence and often results in a prison sentence. What may seem to be banter may actually be offensive, what may be intended to be seen by a few could be seen by thousands. A fake social networking profile or account may also be a criminal offence in certain circumstances.

What about freedom of speech?

This is not an absolute right and may be restricted where necessary and proportionate.

Think it couldn’t happen to you?

Remember the Robin Hood Airport case? A young man made what he intended to be a jokey comment about blowing up the airport if he couldn’t make his flight due to adverse weather. He found himself in court, was convicted by magistrates, and again on appeal before finally his conviction was quashed at a second High Court appeal. By then he had already lost his job as a consequence of the conviction.

What are the consequences?

Social media has even recently been blamed for an increase in knife crime as it can amplify the effect of violence. Accordingly, online offences are being dealt with seriously. Last year the Crown Prosecution Service updated its policy statements in order to take account of the increase in online abuse, saying that individuals need to appreciate they can’t go online and press a button without any consequences. At the other end of the spectrum, saying something unpopular or unpleasant is not unlawful, people’s sensitivities need to be balanced with free speech, and we see reported a number of cases that cause us concern. This tide of sensitivity could result in people pleading guilty when in fact they are not – always take early advice.

How can we help?

If you need further advice in respect of any potential criminal matter please contact Rob Barley on 01502 533020 or email r-barley@nortonpeskett.co.uk

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