Malicious Communications Act Offences

If you are concerned about an allegation in relation to malicious communications, it is important to have expert legal representation from the outset to ensure that you receive the right advice and approach to the case.

Those accused of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Communications Act 2003 are unlikely to be familiar with the legal system and unaware that what may have been thought of as an innocent message on social media can have life-changing consequences, including imprisonment.

To speak to a solicitor about allegations of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, contact us today on 0800 652 5559. Alternatively, fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.

How JMW Can Help

Our private client criminal law service is designed to provide a first-class level of care to those facing allegations of communication offences. The bespoke nature of our service means we are able to be as dedicated and thorough as is required in cases such as these.

We are able to provide assistance throughout proceedings. Our services include advising during an interview under caution, investigating the prosecution’s evidence, and compiling the strongest possible case for your defence to be presented in the right way. 

We provide national representation and have experience in every court in England and Wales, whether it be the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court.

Today, a large number of criminal offences can be committed using social media, including sending communications. An offence may be committed under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (in particular, section 1) and, or the Communications Act 2003.

Potential Offences Under The Malicious Communications Act 1988

Under this area of law, communication is defined as any person who sends a letter, electronic communication or article of any description to another person which conveys the following:

  • A message that is indecent or grossly offensive
  • A threat
  • Information that is false and is known or believed to be false by the sender

The above only applies if the sender’s purpose was to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient. The mental state of the sender is a key element of the offence and has a high threshold for the prosecution to meet when an individual is charged with this offence.

In addition, the content must be deemed as ‘grossly offensive’, and must be more than just offensive, shocking or disturbing. Contemporary standards will be considered and an expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion will rarely be considered as ‘grossly offensive.’

Potential Offences Under The Communications Act 2003

Offences that fall under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 include the following:

  • A person sending any public electronic communications network a message or other content that is grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing
  • A person causing any such message or content to be sent

A person can also be found guilty of an offence under the Communications Act if they intend to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety by:

  • Sending a message that is known to be false via a public electronic communications network
  • Causing such a message to be sent
  • Persistently making use of a public electronic communications network

Similar to offences under the Malicious Communications Act, offences require the content of a message to be ‘grossly offensive, indecent or obscene’. However, the mental element of the offence is broader as it includes circumstances where a person should have awareness or recognition that sending the message may create fear or apprehension in any reasonable member of the public who reads or sees it. It is not necessary that the person intended to cause such fear or apprehension.

In addition, an offence will be committed under section 1(2) of the Act where a person had specific intent to cause annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety with a message that is false. 

Whereas an offence under the Malicious Communications Act requires the sending of a letter or electronic communication to another person (i.e. direct contact), an offence under the Communications Act 2003 may be committed by simply posting, reposting or sharing a communication. An offence may, therefore, be committed by retweeting particular content. 


What are the Penalties for a Malicious Communication Offence?

There are varying levels of seriousness and sentences that will be received by individuals convicted of malicious communications (under both Acts). Someone who is charged with an offence may have their case heard in either the Magistrates’ or Crown Court depending upon the offence that is charged.

If a person is found guilty of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, they may be sentenced to a prison sentence of up to 12 months or a fine or both, following a conviction in the Magistrates’ Court, or a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine or both on conviction in the Crown Court.

A person found guilty of an offence under the Communications Act 2003 will be sentenced
in the Magistrates’ Court and may receive a prison sentence of up to six months or a fine.

A criminal charge relating to malicious communications is always a serious allegation and there is a significant risk that a sentence of imprisonment may be received. It is therefore essential to seek expert legal advice.

Can I Defend a Charge?

Each case is unique and a defence should be fully explored with appropriate legal advice. The nature of the content and whether it can be properly deemed as ‘grossly offensive’ will need to be considered. In addition, detailed consideration and advice will need to be obtained in relation to the intention and purpose of the message.

A potential defence to charges under the Malicious Communications Act is to show that a threat was made to reinforce a demand that is made on reasonable grounds, in other words, a threat is a proper means to reinforce a demand.

As set out above, the aspect of both offences that the prosecution must prove is difficult to establish and thorough and robust legal advice is therefore essential.

Talk to Us

Get in touch with the expert team at JMW today for advice in relation to any communication offences. Call us on 0800 652 5559 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will call you back as soon as possible.

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