Online hate crimes, should now be treated as seriously as those in person, prosecutors in England and Wales have said.
The Crown Prosecution Service today issues guidance saying the impact of tweets is just as ‘devastating’ as being shouted at.
The move is part of a wider review of guidance. The UK’s CPS will be seeking tougher sentences for these kinds of crimes.
Furthermore, for the first time, it includes a direct mention of biphobic statements made online.
It now acknowledges victims of biphobic hate crime have different experiences and needs to those who face offenses because they are gay or trans.
Bisexual activist Lewis Oakley says the new guidance couldn’t come soon enough:
‘I’m delighted at this development for myself and the other bisexuals. But also for people like my girlfriend who have to endure disgusting slurs about their partners.
‘Perhaps this development by the CPS will serve as a catalyst to reassure bisexuals they don’t have to suffer in silence. And also to force others to reflect on the way they treat bisexuals.’
Writing for Gay Star News, deputy CEO of anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label, Sue Jones says:
‘The internet has redefined how young people communicate. Cyberbullying invades traditionally safe spaces. It means bullying can happen in plain sight of others without them even realizing.’
‘This new guidance sends a clear message that hate crime will be taken seriously and people’s voices will be heard.’
Trolling can be a criminal offense in the UK
The UK has some of the toughest laws for online trolling in the world.
It’s all because of Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, barely used before the rise of social media.
People can be jailed for sending messages or material with ‘grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character’.
In 2015, this saw the equivalent of three people a day receiving prosecution for ‘trolling.’
As a result, their guilty verdicts left them with an average prison sentence of 2.2 months.
Writing in the Guardian about the new guidance, the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders says they have made this move because people are spending more time online than ever before:
‘It is only right that we do everything possible to ensure that people are protected from abuse that can now follow them everywhere via the screen of their smartphone or tablet.
‘Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on a wall or tweeted into their living room, hateful abuse can have a devastating impact on victims.’