UK sets out social media prosecution guidelines

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm •  Published: December 18, 2012

The new guidelines seek to draw a line between credible threats of violence, harassment or stalking — which will be prosecuted — and "the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humor, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it," Starmer added.

Prosecutors should only act on such communications if they are "grossly offensive," and no prosecution should be brought unless it can be shown to be necessary and proportionate, the guidance said.

The guidance is intended to help public prosecutors decide whether to charge someone or not, as well as give advice to police. The guidelines come into immediate effect and are subject to change after a consultation.

Figures obtained by The Associated Press through a freedom of information request have showed a rising tally of prosecutions in Britain for electronic communications — phone calls, emails and social media posts — deemed offensive, obscene or menacing from 1,263 in 2009 to 1,843 in 2011.

The number of such convictions grew from 873 in 2009 to 1,286 last year.