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What constitutes cyber bullying or online harassment?

Internet users often find that some social media posts and messages can be upsetting, distasteful or express an unpopular view but it does not necessarily mean that it is a criminal offence. If you have reported cyber bullying or harassment to North Yorkshire Police and we consider it to be potentially criminal, we will take appropriate action.

In cases where a criminal offence is caused, we will look at the situation as a whole and speak with the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether or not a prosecution is fair.

Police and prosecutors will take into consideration whether it is in the public interest to pursue the case, how vulnerable the victim is and what resources are required to trace the offender via social networking sites that often operate abroad and to different legislation.

Regular offensive or abusive messages on social media or elsewhere can be classed as a form of stalking or harassment. If you are being stalked or harassed keep a record of the messages and as much information as you can about who sent them and when.

Criminal offence

The Crown Prosecution Service has created a guide which sets four categories that prosecutors should review when making decisions in relation to whether a criminal offence has been committed.

  1. Credible threats (to a person’s life or safety or property)

  2. Communications targeting specific individuals (including persistent harassment and ongoing abuse)

  3. Breach of court orders (for example identifying people protected by law)

  4. Communications which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false

You can find more information at: Crown Prosecution Service’s guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media National Stalking Helpline – www.stalkinghelpline.org