Insights Crown Prosecution Service updates guidance on social media criminal offences.

The guidance is being updated, the CPS says, to incorporate new and emerging crimes that are being committed online and to provide clear advice to help the prosecution of cyber-enabled crime.

The revised guidelines cover cases where offenders set up fake profiles in the names of others, as well as advising prosecutors on the use of social media in new offences, such as revenge pornography and controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.

The CPS has also launched a ten-week public consultation about the proposed revisions to the updated guidelines.

The CPS says that it is vital that prosecutors and the public are aware of what could constitute a criminal offence when using social media.  With the increase of smart technology, new and emerging methods are being used to abuse individuals online.

Advice has been added to the guidelines about the use of false online profiles and websites with false and damaging information.  For example, it may be a criminal offence if a profile is created under the name of the victim with fake information uploaded which, if believed, could damage their reputation and humiliate them.  In some cases the information could then be shared in such a way that it appears as though the victim has themselves made the statements.  This may amount to an offence, such as grossly offensive communication or harassment.

Since the guidelines were published in 2012 two new offences have been created.  Therefore, the guidelines have been updated to incorporate these.

Revenge pornography is predominantly carried out online and is worryingly becoming a common tactic of revenge, often after the breakdown of a relationship.  Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship came into force on 29 December 2015.  To read the CPS’s press release in full and to access the revised guidelines, click here.