Judgement due on whether ‘coordinated harassment’ is a criminal offence

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Judgement due on whether ‘coordinated harassment’ is a criminal offence

Law Commission set to look over 'existing communications offences' in second phase of legislation review

Some forms of bullying can take place online
Some forms of bullying can take place online

The Law Commission is set to consider whether “coordinated harassment” online should be a criminal offence.

The statutory body, which is charged with keeping the law of England and Wales up-to-date, has already completed a first-phase review of legislation covering abusive and offensive online communications, reporting on this in November.

Ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry of Justice asked the Law Commission to begin its second phase this month

DCMS minister Lord Ashton said it would “review existing communications offences to establish whether the law is fit for purpose, and make specific recommendations about options for reform in this area”.

He said: “This will include considering whether coordinated harassment by groups of people online could be more effectively dealt with by the criminal law.”

Several prominent Jewish figures, including celebrities and MPs, have complained of being targeted by coordinated online harassment on social media in recent years, but some of this is currently not illegal.

In 1884, it became illegal to send grossly offensive material by post, and in 1935 it became illegal to use telephones to communicate indecent, obscene or menacing messages. Critics say social media has radically transformed the way we communicate and laws dealing with offensive communications need to catch up.

The Law Commission will now look at online behaviours including gross offensiveness, obscenity and indecency, threatening communication, harassment and stalking, hate crime and false communications.

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