back to article Rude web trolls should NOT be jailed, warns prosecution chief

Web trolls should not be hauled before the courts if their malicious tweets and Facebook updates are quickly deleted, the Director of Public Prosecutions advised today. Not having many friends online and sticking to offensive banter should also keep Brits out the dock. Keir Starmer QC published this morning his interim …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The sad part is ...

    > (ACPO) welcomed the guidelines ... as "a common sense approach"

    ... that it needed a QC to write a report to define what "common sense" was, rather than for ACPO to be able to work it out for themselves.

    1. Whitter

      Re: The sad part is ...

      ACPO: the union for top police - by all means a valid POV, but they are not a legal body and should not carry themselves as such.

      1. Mike 140
        Black Helicopters

        Re: The sad part is ...

        It's not a union. It's ACPO Limited. Registered at Companies House as Company No 3344583

    2. Joseph Lord

      Re: The sad part is ...

      That particular QC is the Director of Public Prosecutions so the right person to be setting a consistent direction from the top.

      You are right that it is worrying that so little reasonableness has been shown at times in the in the past.

      I do try to avoid the phrase "common sense" though because actually turns out to be not as common as you would hope and its not unknown for people claiming "common sense" to be wrong, oversimplifiing and/or bigotted. In this particular case I find myself agreeing with ACPO (scary thought) that this is a "common sense approach". I better get myself checked, I think I've already found myself in agreement with the Home Secretary once this year agreeing with ACPO now has me worried.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The sad part is ...

          "As George Carlin said, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”"

          That depends on how you calculate your average. It could be more than half, and observational evidence suggests that to be the case.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Right To Be Rude

      Is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

      I say call fat people fat, not calorie challenged individuals, call small people small people not vertically challenged people, and ugly people mingers....

      Being rude may hurt them but it will make them stronger.

  2. Khaptain Silver badge

    Very thin line

    I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of a court case where the definition of "Satire" or "Sarcasm" was what held the decision between Guilty and Innocent.

    What I perceive as Satire or Sarcasm might be perceived as others as a downright attack. We don't all share a common base in respects to abstract ideas.

    Ok, the obvious solution is not to write anything Satirical or Sarcastic but then that would remove a lot of the interest. Can you imagine El Reg without either.....

    1. John 156
      Thumb Up

      Re: Very thin line

      Wasn't there some Scottish football fan who threatened to 'kill' the opposing team or their supporters and consequently got locked up? Many of those who work in the DPP's office are not of native extraction and may not understand the more complex uses of the English language by natives. In the circumstances, it would be a lot better to remove thoughtcrime entirely from the statute book in order to allow free speech again; there was actually nothing wrong with the original law which prohibited behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace.

      Emma West who has been incarcerated for over a year and whose children have been taken away, was abusive to a carriage full of foreigners on a South London tram. Was her behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace? The idea that she was going to attack someone whilst holding a child or to frighten a large number of aliens was always preposterous. She was the archetypal 'batty' person on public transport that people ignore.

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Bad law

    Good laws are ones that are clear and unequivocal - ones where anyone should know if they are or are not breaking them. e.g. do not break into someone's house and steal their jewellery, do not point a gun/knife at someone and demand their money.

    Bad laws are ones that depend on the whim of the police and the CPS.

    This still means that whether or not you get prosecuted for a particular tweet depends on the mood of the staff in the CPS, what side of bed they got out of, whether they have indigestion or toothache, or are just plain idiots.

    1. Justicesays

      Re: Bad law

      Or worse, your social status, who you know, who you insulted, your religion or skin colour.

      If the decision to prosecute is rather arbitrary then you open yourself up to all kind of abuses (or accusations of abuse)

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: Bad law

        It's a law that in effect makes you subject to arrest for doing something someone important doesn't like.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do we live in IRAN? WTF?

    The people who make sthese stupid rules need to be removed from office.

    Bloody england, gets worse to live here by the day!.

    1. FunkyEric

      Be careful

      Someone might find that comment grossly offensive.......

      I'll just get my coat and leave. :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Bloody england, gets worse to live here by the day!."

      Then leave, increase the mean IQ.

  5. Crisp Silver badge

    Tis the season to be offensive

    Troll lol lol lol lol, Troll lol lol lol

  6. Bernard

    Why anyone would want to share their every mundane thought is beyond me

    Why anyone would listen even more so.

    But neither is as baffling as why anyone would think that prosecuting them is a good idea.

    If someone says something that indicates they're guilty of a crime, prosecute them. If someone says something that itself may be a crime then absent very narrow and clearly defined circumstances (such as sharing legally privelaged information) we need to change the law so that it isn't.

    Prejudices of all sorts are nasty and dumb, but making them illegal is the thin end of a very alarming wedge.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Why anyone would want to share their every mundane thought is beyond me

      I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Why anyone would want to share their every mundane thought is beyond me

        I once shot a man in Reno, he drank my mai tai.

  7. Efros
    Thumb Up


    take 'em outside and shoot 'em with a ball of their own ordure.

  8. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

    Don't jaill web trolls

    We don't have enough prisons

  9. Sloppy Crapmonster

    If something isn't done about the amount of trolling on teh intertubes I'm going to blow this website sky high!

    1. Ian 62

      I'm troll-icus

      No... I'm troll-icus

      No... He's troll-icus

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe people should stop visiting that cesspool of morons known as Facebook...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I was reasonably content with this, until the comentards above pointed out how much of this will still be dependent on the whims of the police and the CPS.

    One clear point to me is that the responsibility mainly rests with the CPS. They should be in a position to understand what the DoPP is advising (I hope so, anyway - they should have the legal training) and all they need to do is to apply that and bounce any whimsical or ill-judged attempts at prosecution for merely offensive words.

  12. scrubber


    Until the next guy's daughter gets called a slut online and we're back to locking everyone up.

    The law is an ass. Why doesn't the law specify this? Why do we have to (belatedly) rely on a touch of common sense when people have already been charged and the public generally scared into behaving in a manner the knobs think is becoming?

  13. 21st Century Peon

    In the words of Simon Phoenix...

    "You can't take away people's right to be assholes."

  14. Arachnoid

    No issues if their malicious tweets and Facebook updates are quickly deleted

    The only problem with this is that the internet never forgets.Sometime, somewhere your internet musing unlike similar whimsical verbal comments are backed up on somebodys server for regurgitation at a later date not of the authors choice.

  15. h3

    I don't trust the police in this country to understand satire.

    I think it would be better to be like America and just allow people to say what they like.

    (Even if it means we get people like the Westboro Baptist Church).

    I don't see why people give a damn what other people say with very limited exceptions.

    (The Tory guy wrongly accused of being a paedophile I don't think that type of crap is ok).

    I think our country would be better if we followed Liverpool in boycotting anyone who sells the Sun Newspaper.

  16. James 100

    The real flaw

    Really, it's the whole evil concept of a "speech crime". Barring actual threats - which were always a different crime anyway - or breaches of national security, or similar - why should ANY mere words be crimes in themselves!? The whole concept is flawed.

    If "offensive speech" is out, that's pretty much every religion banned (since they each teach the others are wrong/going to hell etc). Of course, scrapping the whole stupid law would require politicians to admit they were wrong...

    1. The First Dave

      Re: The real flaw

      "that's pretty much every religion banned "

      which would be a generally good thing, surely?

  17. Stretch

    Constable Trotter? Really?

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