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Credible threats via social media

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Overview Edit

Credible threats via social media may involve the following:

  • Credible threats of violence to the person may fall under section 16 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 if the threat is a threat to kill within the meaning of that provision.
  • Credible threats of violence to the person may fall under section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 if they amount to a course of conduct within the meaning of that provision and there is sufficient evidence to establish the necessary state of knowledge.
  • Credible threats of violence to the person or damage to property may also fall to be considered under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, which prohibits the sending of messages of a "menacing character" by means of a public telecommunications network. However, before proceeding with a prosecution under section 127, prosecutors should heed the words of the Lord Chief Justice in Chambers v DPP [2012] EWH2 2157, ¶30 (Admin) where he said:
a message which does not create fear or apprehension in those to whom it is communicated, or may reasonably be expected to see it, falls outside [section 127(i)(a)], for the simple reason that the message lacks menace.
  • As a general rule, threats which are not credible should not be prosecuted, unless they form part of a campaign of harassment specifically targeting an individual within the meaning of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Where there is evidence of discrimination, prosecutors should pay particular regard to the provisions of section 28-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and section 145 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (increase in sentences for racial and religious aggravation) and section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (increase in sentences for aggravation related to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity).

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