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Cyberbullying and the law

Written by Rehana Ali on 20 November 2012

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The law on Cyberbullying

Due to continued advancements in technology and the rise and popularity of the social networking sites, the concept of cyberbullying is starting to create more and more issues. BeatBullying a charity set up to help victims of bullying claims that 1 in 3 young people are victims and shockingly 3 per cent of them have attempted to commit suicide, even worse people have actually committed suicide due to cyberbullying.

Currently it is an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 to send an electronic communication which conveys a message that is grossly offensive, (with the intention on behalf of the sender to cause anxiety and distress to the recipient).

The test for grossly offensive was laid down by the House of Lords in DPP v Collins 2006, to be whether the message would cause gross offence to those to whom it relates (who need not be the recipients). The case also confirmed that it is justifiable under ECHR to prosecute somebody who has used the public telecommunications system to leave racist messages.

Further changes to the law are likely to be introduced very soon:

  • Section 127 0f the Communications Act 2003 will make it an offence to foreword a message that breaks the law, namely a person can be found guilty of the same offence. 
  • The Harassment Act 1997 that aims to protect people from stalking and various forms of harassment is set to be updated and include a new clause that specifically deals with cyberbullying and cyberstalking.

Many are concerned about the new legislation curbing our freedom of expression. The law must carry out a difficult balancing act between privacy and civil liberties, one thing that can be said for sure is children need to be protected, facebook does not allow a child under 13 to set up an account but unfortunately many kids under 13 still do.

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Martin O'Brien quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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