The Crown Prosecution Service has published a new set of guidelines designed to broaden the scope with which online bullies can be prosecuted.
Among the new crimes is the setting up of fake profiles in another person's name. There is also clarification on actions such as revenge porn and intimidation, both of which have been illegalised since the last set of guidelines was drawn up in 2012.
The goal is for both prosecutors and the public to have a clearer understanding of what and is not acceptable behaviour online. The new guidelines are enforceable right now as part of a ten-week consultation, after which they may be further expanded.
"Online communication is developing at such a fast pace, new ways of targeting and abusing individuals online are constantly emerging,” director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said. We are seeing more and more cases where social media is being used as a method to facilitate both existing and new offences.
"It is vital that prosecutors consider the bigger picture when looking at evidence and examine both the online and offline behaviour pattern of the defendant. Online abuse is cowardly and can be deeply upsetting to the victim.
"Worryingly we have seen an increase in the use of cyber-enabled crime in cases related to Violence against Women and Girls, including domestic abuse. Offenders can mistakenly think that by using false online profiles and creating websites under a false name their offences are untraceable. Thankfully this is not the case and an online footprint will be left by the offender.
"Our guidelines are under constant review and continuously updated to ensure prosecutors have clear advice on new methods of committing crimes."