The finding that more than a third of users of the Internet in the UK have been ‘trolled’ or been the subject of harassment, stalking or ‘cyber-bullying’, sometimes with severe effects on those singled out for online abuse, has led the Government to commission an independent review of the laws that relate to such abuse, with a view to stamping it out and making the Internet a place where users are safe from those seeking to attack them.
The setting up of an independent commission to carry out the review is the first step of the Government’s ‘Digital Charter’, which seeks to address the problems caused by the fact that the Internet and its use are developing at a dizzying rate and the law has failed in many ways to keep up with this. The aim is to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
The independent review is expected to be published within six months and a consultation period will follow, after which legislation will be introduced into Parliament.
Whilst this is welcome I am concerned that “trolling” is sometimes actually stalking and there is already legislation available which is too often overlooked by the police and CPS. The fact that it happens on line rather than in person makes no difference and sometimes means that the victims has no where to feel safe – even their own home. We need to start using the legislation and treating this problem seriously. Too often I hear the police advise victims to “come off social media” which not only further punishes the victim but can be dangerous advice as stalkers are forced to get closer to their victim to make their presence known.
If you or a member of your family has been the subject of defamatory comment, stalking on or offline or have been threatened on the Internet, there may be steps you can take: contact us for advice.
Rachel Horman is Head of Family Law at Watson Ramsbottom and an expert in Domestic Abuse, Coercive Control and Stalking. For more information, please all 01254 67 22 22 or complete our online enquiry form.