Justice: Social Media
House of Lords / 19 Dec 2012 : Column WS211
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General (Dominic Grieve) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has today launched a public consultation on his interim guidelines for prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media.
The guidelines set out the additional considerations which are relevant when prosecutors assess whether a prosecution is required in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Each case will be considered on its own facts and on its own merits, and prosecutors have the task of balancing the fundamental right of free speech and the need to prosecute serious wrongdoing. The interim guidelines make a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment or which breach court orders on the one hand; and other communications, eg grossly offensive communications, on the other. The first group will be prosecuted robustly, whereas the second group will be prosecuted only if they cross a high threshold. A prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest if the communication is swiftly removed, blocked, not intended for a wide audience or not obviously beyond what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in a diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.
The guidelines have been issued on an interim basis, as they are the subject of a public consultation exercise that will last for three months. The DPP will publish his final guidelines next year once he has considered the responses to the consultation. Copies of the interim guidelines have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.