Lincolnshire Talks: Should online abuse become a specific criminal offence?

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Any form of bullying is not nice, but as we move further into an world ruled by the internet, online abuse is increasing.

Celebrity and former model Katie Price recently launched a petition to make online abuse a specific criminal offence.

This would see online bullies not only charged but would also placed on a register of offenders.

Katie Price with her son Harvey. Photo: Twitter

This comes after Katie’s disabled son Harvey, who is blind and has autism, ADHD and Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting appetite and muscle development, was targeted by online bullies.

Katie Price said: “Trolling is a major problem in this day and age. People of all ages and background suffer every day, including my family – especially my son Harvey.

“This does not affect just high profile people it affects everyone from every walk of life from young children, teenagers, people at work, husbands and wives.

“This abuse includes racism, homophobia, body shaming and a whole range of other hate speech.

“This petition is an important topical issue and I want it to help bring justice to everyone who has ever suffered at the hands of trolls.”

‘Abusive behaviour online is unacceptable’

Lincolnshire Police have said that online crime in the county is beginning to increase in the form of harassment, fraud and grooming.

Chief Inspector Dan Whyment said: “Although it isn’t currently a specific criminal offence there is legislation available to us to use where people are experiencing online abuse, namely the Malicious Communications Act and the Harassment Act.

“There can also be cases where the abuse may be classed as a hate crime as a victim has been targeted because of their race, religion, disability or sexuality.

“In Lincolnshire we are aware that crime is increasingly committed online, in the form of harassment, fraud and grooming.

“We are working closely with safeguarding partners to ensure our communities are educated about the dangers of online crime, particularly around young and vulnerable people.”

Dan Holbrook, e-Safety Officer for the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board told Lincolnshire Reporter: “Abusive behaviour online is unacceptable but sadly a common issue experience by children and young people online.

“As a Safeguarding Board we always promote positive use of technology but also discuss with students what they can do if they experience someone who is being abusive.

“It’s important to know that many children do not feel they can tell an adult so sometimes deal with it on their own.

“Last year we spoke to nearly 20,000 students in primary, secondary and special schools.”

Top tips:

  • Do not respond to abusive behaviour – the abuser wants them to reply
  • Save a copy by taking a screenshot or taking a picture of it on a smartphone
  • Report the user to the social media firm – All social media apps have help pages which explain how to do this
  • Block them – This stops them from sending messages or joining their games
  • Talk to someone – a trusted adult like a parent or teacher
  • If the abuse continues or if you feel that the law has been broken, call Lincolnshire Police on 101

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