Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DPP social media prosecution guidelines

The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued an interim set of guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media.

Social Media Dpp

He has also launched a public consultation on these guidelines. Section 36 of the guidelines says:
"Against that background, prosecutors should only proceed with cases under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 where they are satisfied that the communication in question is more than:
  • Offensive, shocking or disturbing; or
  • Satirical, iconoclastic or rude comment; or
  • The expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.
If so satisfied, prosecutors should go on to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest."
There's a lot of sense in the guidelines which suggests that maybe the Paul Chambers case would not have been pursued but what does "more than offensive, shocking..." actually mean? The police and CPS still have to make a judgement call and will still be under media and political pressure to "do something" when the next infamous offensive idiot is given his 15 minutes of fame in the press and broadcasting studios.

Let's just make it simple and get sections 1 & 127 of the Malicious Communications and Communications Acts respectively off the statute books.  And while we're at it, for a bonus, we can bin section 4 of the Public Order Act too. The police and CPS have more than enough to do and should not be making routine judgment calls on what might constitute acceptable speech.