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  • December 19th, 2012

What Are The New Social Media Guidelines?

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Today, 19th December 2012, the DPP released guidelines on how to deal with comments on social media. But what actually do the guidelines say?

Introduction

The introduction states that “The guidelines cover the offences that are likely to be most commonly committed by the sending of communications via social media.” and that the guidelines not only apply to sending and tweeting messages but also the re-sending and re-tweeting of communications.

General Principles

The general principles state that, as with criminal prosecutions, the prosecutors may only start a prosecution if a case satisfies the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

Early consultation between police and prosecutors will also help in cases involving the sending of communications via social media. The police are being encourages to contact the CPS in the early states of the investigation.

Initial assessment

For communications sent by social media that are capable of amounting to criminal offences, prosecutors must make an initial assessment of the content of the communication and the course of conduct in question to see if it: –

  • included credible threats
  • specifically target an individual or individuals
  • was in breach of a court order or
  • was grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.

In cases that involve grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false communications they will be “will be subject to a high threshold and in many cases a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest.” When assessing whether a prosecution is required in the public interest, prosecutors must follow the approach set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the approach set out in these guidelines.

Own Merits and Facts

Each case should be considered on its own merits and facts. However if

  • swift action has been taken to remove the communication or there has been an expression of genuine remorse
  • Swift and effective action has been taken by others for example, service providers, to remove the communication or block access
  • The communication was not intended for a wide audience, nor was that the obvious consequence of sending the communication
  • The content of the communication did not obviously go beyond what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in an open and diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.

prosecution is unlikely to be both necessary and proportionate.

Age and Maturity

If the case involves suspects under the age of 18 their age and maturity should be given significant weight.

Get the Guidelines

The guidelines are available in more detail on the CPS Website in PDF format.


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