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House of Lords inquiry into social media offences

10 July 2014

The House of Lords Communications Committee (the “Committee”) is carrying out an inquiry into the legal and regulatory framework which surrounds social media offences. The inquiry comes in response to increasing numbers of social media prosecutions and concerns over the effect of technology on consumers’ behaviour.

The consequences of communications sent via social media are capable of amounting to criminal offences under a range of statutes, including the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003.

The Committee’s inquiry will consider:

  • whether the existing law is capable of adapting given the speed of changes in technology
  • whether there are overlaps or gaps that mean that categorising the offence is not always clear
  • whether the sentences handed out for social media and communications offences are known, consistent and appropriate and, more generally, whether other approaches, such as restorative justice and education, might be more effective, and
  • how, in response to the above issues, legislation can strike an effective balance between victim protection and freedom of speech.

The Committee hosted two open evidence sessions on 1 and 9 July where representations were taken from the Crown Prosecution Service, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Bar, Facebook, Twitter and Article 19 (a free speech organisation) and intends to report back on its findings later this summer.

This article was written by Oliver Price, Associate.  

For more information please contact Oliver on +44 (0)20 7203 8994 or oliver.price@crsblaw.com.