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  • December 6th, 2012

What is Sending Malicious Communications?

It has become more common to hear about people being charged under the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

High profile cases such as Tom Daley has brought a lot of media attention to this offence (and the people involved) but what is it and what does sending malicious communications involve?


Malicious Communications Act 1988

Under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 it is an offence to “send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety”. Or more simply it is an offence to send messages to another person which are “indecent or grossly offensive”, threatening or false.

This means that any message sent, such as a letter, text message (SMS) and Tweets on Twitter or Facebook messages etc. that could be considered indecent or grossly offensive can be an offence under this act. The message does not have to reach the intended recipient for an offence to occur.

If found guilty of malicious communications you may have a fine of up to £5000 and up to six month imprisonment.

Communications Act 2003

Section 127(1) of the CA makes it an offence to make improper use of a public electronic communications network. Such improper use is stated as sending “a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.

Section 127(2) makes it an offence to send messages “for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another”.

This offence can apply to messages sent by email or by other forms of communication.

On conviction, you may face up to 6 months imprisonment and a fine of up to £5000.

What is Grossly Offensive?

Stated by the House of Lords in DPP v Collins [2006] 1 WLR 2223 the test for a “grossly offensive” message was to be whether the it would cause gross offence to those to whom it relates, who need not be the recipients.

If you find yourself facing charges for sending malicious communications get in touch with MJP solicitors for advice and representation.


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