Malicious Communications

Here at JD Solicitors, we understand how upsetting and stressful it can be to be charged with malicious communications offences. Fortunately, our experience criminal defence team are expert in defending malicious communications charges and can help maximise the opportunity of a positive outcome in your case.

Read on for more information about malicious communications, and the penalties it can incur and how we can help you in your case. 

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What is The Malicious Communications Act?

The 1988 Malicious Communications Act (MCA) is a piece of legislation that deals with offensive communications. To be classified under this act as an offence the perpetrator has to have intended to cause distress or anxiety to the recipients of the communication.

What Is Malicious Communication?

Under the MCA a malicious communication is defined as one that is verbal, written, or electronic that communicates a message that meets with at least one of the following criteria. 

  1. That is indecent or grossly offensive
  2. That makes a threat 
  3. Where the information that is known or believed to be false by the sender.
released under investigation

What Is Grossly Offensive Language?

One criterion by which a malicious communication offence can be identified is the use of grossly offensive language. However, there is so specific definition of what grossly offensive language is in the MCA. 

Instead, the courts are asked to make their interpretation of whether any language used is grossly offensive or not. To do this they must offset the defendant’s right to freedom of expression, as outlined by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, with how a person deemed reasonable would react.

Examples of Malicious Communications

Some examples of incidents that would be charged as malicious communications under the MCA include: 

  • A person sending a letter message to their ex’s new partner, threatening to damage their car if they continue with the relationship. 
  • A neighbour sent an email complaining about the condition of the outside of their home, where the sender used offensive language and insults. 
  • A university student sends an email with pornographic images to students on the same course. 
  • An office worker opens an anonymous social media account that they use to direct message colleagues while insulting them and using offensive language.

Malicious Communications As A Crime

Sending malicious communication is a crime under the MCA. However, it is an offence. This means that it can be either tried in the Crown Court or the Magistrates Court. Some defendants prefer to have their case heard at the Crown Court, because of the Jurys’ involvement. However, it is important to note that if found guilty in the Crown Court, the sentencing can be much harsher. 

Affray sentencing
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The Sentencing Guidelines For Malicious Communications

The maxim sentence applied to malicious communications offences depends on where the case is heard. For cases that are heard and convicted in the Crown Court, the most severe penalty is a fine, a two-year custodial sentence, or both. 

However, for cases heard and convicted in the Magistrates’ Court the maximum sentence is a fine, 12 months in prison or both. 

It is important to note that, unlike many other crimes, there are no formal published recommendations or guidelines on the different factors that should be considered when sentencing is being metered out. 

Although, malicious communications offences that are motivated by protected characteristics such as gender, age, or sexual orientation are likely to be awarded more severe punishments.

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