The six new criminal offences set to come into force on 31st January 2024, under Part 10 of the Online Safety Act 2023, reflect the nature and breadth of the different forms of communication in today's society.
The general purpose of the Online Safety Act 2023 is to enhance the safety of internet services for individuals residing in the United Kingdom. The legislation aims to address the rising concerns surrounding online harm and ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect users and prosecute offenders.
The newly introduced offences encompass a range of behaviours that were either not previously criminalised or where it was considered that an updating of the previous law was needed, to encompass both the breadth of electronic communications and the more traditional forms of correspondence, such as letters.
It is essential to be aware of these offences to ensure compliance with the law. The six offences coming into force are as follows:
- False communications
The sending of knowingly false information with the intention of causing non-trivial psychological or physical harm to the likely recipient or audience (maximum sentence 6 months imprisonment).
- Threatening communications
The sending of a message that contains a threat of death or serious harm (GBH, serious sexual assault or serious financial loss), intending that, or being reckless as to whether, the recipient will fear that the threat will be carried out (maximum sentence 5 years imprisonment).
- Sending or showing flashing images electronically
The sending or showing, without reasonable excuse, of content containing flashing images, with the intention of causing harm to those with epilepsy (maximum sentence 5 years imprisonment).
- Encouraging or assisting serious self-harm
Committing an act (including verbal, electronic or written communication) which is capable, and carried out with the intention, of encouraging or assisting the serious self-harm of another person (maximum sentence 5 years imprisonment).
- Sending photograph or film of genitals
The sending or giving to another person of a photograph or film of any person’s genitals, intending that the recipient will see the image and be caused alarm, distress or humiliation; or in order to obtain sexual gratification whilst being reckless as to whether the recipient will be caused alarm, distress or humiliation (maximum sentence 2 years imprisonment).
- Sharing or threatening to share an intimate photograph or film
The sharing of a photograph or film, without consent, which shows another person in an intimate state, without a reasonable belief of having their consent, or intending to cause them alarm, distress or humiliation, or for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification (maximum sentences range from 6 months to 2 years imprisonment).
Or, threatening to share such an image intending that, or being reckless as to whether, the person shown (or someone who knows them) will fear that the threat will be carried out (maximum sentence 2 years imprisonment).
If a company commits any of the first four above offences and has done so with the consent or connivance, or as a consequence of the neglect, of an officer of the company (including a director, manager or similar), the officer of the company also commits the offence and can be prosecuted.
How We Can Help
We recognise that facing a criminal allegation is one of the most stressful experiences that a person can face. Investigations and prosecutions will often take a significant period of time to reach a conclusion. The potential impact of being convicted can be terrifying, both in terms of sentence and the effect upon reputation and employment.
If you find yourself facing an allegation, please do not hesitate to contact our team, giving you the reassurance of being represented by an experienced lawyer.
Please contact Kirsty Chaplin on 01603 284275 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.