The internet is a wonderful tool. Unfortunately it can be used for bad as well as for good. The information below is from Respect Me and the laws apply equally to adults as they do to children.
When this technology is abused, or used to harass or threaten others, there may be legal consequences. There are four UK statute laws and one Scottish common law that are relevant to the use of IT in relation to bullying. These are:
- The Protection from Harassment Act 1997
- The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
- The Malicious Communications Act 1998
- The Communications Act 2003
- Breach of the Peace (common law)
- amounts to harassment of another
- he knows, or ought to know, amounts to harassment of the other.’
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994This Act defines a criminal offence of intentional harassment, which covers all forms, including sexual harassment. A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he/she
- uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour; or
- displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.
The Communications Act 2003The Communications Act 2003 is by far the most recent Act to be passed. Section 127 states that a person is guilty of an offence if he/she
- sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
- causes any such message or matter to be so
- A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he/she knows to be false,
- causes such a message to be sent; or
- persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network
- Fear, alarm, upset or annoyance
- When one or more persons conduct themselves in a riotous, or disorderly manner, anywhere, which alarms, annoys or disturbs other people
- The offence can take place anywhere (a house, an office, a school or a public street)
- The element of disturbance would be the most relevant to Cyberbullying as the behaviour does not have to be noisy but still of a nature that would cause concern to other people – harassment or stalking and bullying
It proves difficult to source evidence of charges being successfully brought against people who use new technology to bully.It is worth noting that the age of criminal responsibility in
More information can be found online.