Parliament responds to thought-crime section 127 petition (Communications act 2003)

This is the sub-section in question:

Improper use of public electronic communications network

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b)causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

No explanation is given as to what constitutes a “grossly offensive” message, the law is not supposed to be subjective! Also, no definition is given as to what constitutes a “public network” – since the social media firms are private networks, any posts that they host are their responsibility, not the individual who posted them.

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Please sign the petition, if you have not already done so https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/582423

Since this petition has exceed the required amount of votes, it has now received a response from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

We are committed to making the UK the safest place to be online while upholding rights to freedom of expression. The Law Commission is currently reviewing harmful and abusive communications online.

The Government recognises the importance of free speech, particularly in the context of online communications.

Current UK legislation protects the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, this right is qualified and may be restricted in some circumstances, including where there may be a serious intent to cause harm or incite hatred against others.

We are committed to ensuring the criminal law keeps pace with changes in technology, while also taking into account harmful communications online. Against this background, the Government has asked the Law Commission to review existing laws related to harmful and abusive communications online. This review is considering sections 127(1) and 127(2) of the Communications Act 2003 and section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988, determining whether these laws need amending and updating with new offences to account for a range of harms online including pile-on abuse, cyberflashing and self-harm.

Existing communications offences are important for protecting people from criminal activity, including online. However, we recognise that some elements pose problems, including vagueness in terms such as “grossly offensive, “obscene” and “indecent”, which the Law Commission highlights in their consultation paper. The Law Commission’s proposals are therefore an important step towards addressing such limitations.

The Law Commission has now consulted on provisional proposals for reform. They will publish final recommendations by the summer, which the Government will carefully consider. Subject to final proposals, the Government may be minded to take these forward into legislation, where necessary and appropriate to do so. When considering potential reforms, we will guarantee strong protections for citizens from harm while upholding the right to freedom of expression.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

The law commission have published a consultation paper on “communications offenses” (thought crime) here https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/reform-of-the-communications-offences/

Among other things, they propose:

  • Raising the threshold for false communications so that it would only be an offence if the defendant knows the post is false, they are intending to cause non‑trivial emotional, psychological, or physical harm, and if they have no excuse.

This proposal alone would have squashed my own recent conviction under section 127 of the communications act 2003, where my posting a warning about a potential sex offender was treated as a “public order” offence – there was no plaintiff because he had dropped the charge – and yet I was still placed under a restraining order and ordered to do “community service”.

Every official that I have consulted with has concurred that this represents extremely suspicious behaviour by the Huddersfield Police, and the magistrate in question was the same person who pardoned sex offender Neil Gilpin (later sentenced to ten years in jail for child rape) and also failed to act against the Asian child rape gangs which have terrorised this town for over a decade. I will be writing an open letter to the counter-terrorism police asking how they could have allowed this to continue.

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