It is a criminal offence to send messages which are indecent, grossly offensive or contain threats.
The Communications Act 2003 & The Malicious Communications Act 1988 make it a criminal offence for individuals to send malicious communications. A conviction under this legislation can result in a criminal record, a fine and potentially a prison sentence.
The offence of Malicious Communication is committed where someone sends any form of communication, which is:
Where the purpose of sending the message is to cause distress or anxiety.
No. The offence of malicious communication occurs once the communication is sent. Therefore, in order for the offence to be committed, it does not have to be received by the intended person. It is the sending and intent of the offender which counts as an offence.
The burden of proof is on the prosecution and the proof must be beyond reasonable doubt. The Prosecution need to show:
3. And the purpose of sending the message is to cause distress or anxiety.
Offences under the Malicious Communications Act can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. In the crown court, the sentence can be up to 2 years.
Offences under the Communications Act 2003 are often brought in conjunction with offences under the Malicious Communications Act.
An offence under S127(1) will be committed if the prosecution can show:
An offence under S127(2) will be committed if the prosecution can show that a person in order to cause annoyance inconvenience or needless anxiety to another:
Offences under the Communications Act can only be dealt with in the magistrates court, unless you also face connected offences which go to the Crown Court. Offences under the Communications Act carry a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment.
Scottow v Crown Prosecution Service  EWHC 3421 (Admin).
A case which considers the interaction of this offence with freedom of speech and what amounts to a course of conduct.