The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has published its new Guidelines for Prosecuting Cases Involving Electronic Communications.
These guidelines explain the approach of the PPS when considering cases where it is alleged that criminal offences have been committed by the sending of an electronic communication. These communications include phone calls and text messages, internet discussion forums, video streamed on the internet and other messages sent by or on social media platforms.
You can read the guidelines on the PPS website.
Dr Richard Scullion, Head of Policy and Information for the PPS, said:
“As a society, the way in which we communicate has changed dramatically over recent years. As the technology evolves, so must our approach as a prosecuting authority.
“These guidelines cover the offences that are most commonly committed by the sending of electronic communications and in particular those sent by text or by using social media. The offences may apply in respect of an original communication and also any resending of a message, for example re-tweeting.
“These can be complex offences, and the guidelines provide important guidance to prosecutors dealing with these types of cases. They also provide increased clarity to the legal community, statutory and voluntary agencies and members of the public.
Dr Scullion added: “A public consultation, carried out between November 2021 and February 2022, has helped to inform the drafting of the guidelines. Looking ahead, they will be kept under review and updated to take account of any future legislative changes in this area.”
Notes to Editors
- The policy is available to read on the PPS website.
- You can download a summary report detailing the consultation responses.
- It was developed following Judge Marrinan’s Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Northern Ireland, published in November 2020 (Recommendation 29).
- All PPS decision making is taken in accordance with the Test for Prosecution, which involves two stages. The evidential test must be met before the public interest test is considered. You can find more details in the PPS Code for Prosecutors.
- Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing email@example.com inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 418844.