Internet ‘trolls’ who abuse people online will be dealt with as seriously as those who commit offences in person, under new guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Prosecutors will seek stiffer penalties for hate crimes committed on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, following a spike in reports of such offences.
The changes follow public concern over the increasing amount of racist, anti-religious, homophobic and transphobic attacks carried out online.
Online abuse will now be treated as seriously as offline hate crimes – defined as an action motivated by hostility or prejudice – after the CPS warned that the impact of tweeting abuse can be as “equally devastating” as shouting it.
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said online hate crime can fuel “dangerous hostility” of the type seen earlier this month in Charlottesville, America, where white supremacists and neo-Nazis staged violent protests.
“Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating,” she added.
Hate crime, in general, is rising in the UK with more cases being pursued than ever, according to government figures. The CPS successfully prosecuted more than 15,000 incidents in 2015/16 – the highest number on record.
Police believe the nature of the debate around last year’s referendum, which saw Britain leave the European Union, played a part in a surge in the number of offences committed against ethnic minorities. According to a Home Office report released in October, race or religious hate crimes jumped by more than two fifths in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Meanwhile, the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Europe is also thought to have been a factor in the increase of offences.
How can Gotelee’s criminal law solicitors help?
Whether you need advice on behaviour that you have experienced or if the police have investigated your alleged actions and you require advice, Gotelee’s Suffolk Criminal Law team can help.
Our lawyers have a wealth of experience and can offer expert guidance to all of those affected by the issues raised by the changes to the sentencing guidelines.