Cyber-bullies could face two years in jail under new internet troll rules

A change to the criminal justice bill would target abuse on the internet or via mobile phones in England and Wales

The Guardian, 26 March 2014, UK

People convicted of cyber-bullying and text message abuse could face up to two years in prison, under plans backed by the government.

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has backed an amendment to the criminal justice bill that would target new rules at combating trolls that sexually harass and verbally abuse people on the internet or via mobile phones in England and Wales.
The amendment, due to be discussed in parliament on Thursday, was proposed by the Conservative MP for Ealing Central and Acton Angie Bray, after one of her constituents said her 14-year-old daughter had been “verbally raped” by 2,000 obscene texts sent by an older man, who escaped conviction.
“Just tabled amendment to criminal justice bill to make life just a bit harder for cyber-bullies and sex pests using texts to harass victims,” said Bray on Twitter.

The amendment would allow for greater penalties of up to two years in prison and extend the period of time made available to authorities attempting to build difficult cases against offenders.
Offences such as internet trolling fall under the Malicious Communications Act, which can only be tried in a magistrates’ court.
Bray’s tabled amendment comes after a string of high-profile abuse cases involving Twitter and text messages. Two abusers of the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez were jailed in January for subjecting her to threats of violence and rape on Twitter after Criado-Perez launched a campaign for more women to be represented on banknotes.

The Labour minister for culture, media and sport, Helen Goodman, called for “a clear legal framework” to tackle the problem of cyber-bullying and the suicides of vulnerable young people in January, after the deaths of the teenagers Tallulah Wilson and Hannah Smith.

Wilson died in 2012 aged 15 when she was hit by a train. An inquest into her death found that she had developed an alternative fantasy life online. In 2013, 14-year-old Hannah Smith was found hanged after being bullied on the open-discussion site

A committee will discuss the tabled amendment in parliament on Thursday, which will be added to the changes to laws to be voted on this year.