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Social media prosecution policy revealed 04/12/2014 COPFS has launched written policy guidance on communications sent via social media, to clarify when such communications will amount to criminal conduct

Social media prosecution policy revealed

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has launched written policy guidance on communications sent via social media, to provide clarity on when such communications will amount to criminal conduct.

According to COPFS, the policy will not pose a danger to freedom of speech, and it will not be prosecuting people for satirical comments, offensive humour or provocative statements. As with any other offence, prosecutors may only instigate criminal proceedings where there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence and it is in the public interest to do so.

The four main categories of behaviour that prosecutors will distinguish between are:

  1. Communications which specifically target an individual or group of individuals in particular communications which are considered to be hate crime, domestic abuse, or stalking.
  2. Communications which may constitute credible threats of violence to the person, damage to property or to incite public disorder
  3. Communications which may amount to a breach of a court order or contravene legislation making it a criminal offence to release or publish information relating to proceedings.
  4. Communications which do not fall into categories 1,2 or 3 above but are nonetheless considered to be grossly offensive, indecent or obscene or involve the communication of  false information about an individual or group of individuals which results in adverse consequences for that individual or group of individuals.

Speaking following the publication of the social media guidance, the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said:

“The rule of thumb is simple - if it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online.”

The full guidance is available here.

 

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