Friday, 12 April 2013

Prosecutions for use of Social Media

There seems to be a lot of activity around the subject of investigation and prosecution for the use of the social media.  I think the document people may be looking for is this:

Issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions on 19 December 2012

If your query concerns Paris Brown, who recently stepped down from being a Youth Commissioner for Kent Police, the following CPS clarification may be of interest to you:
where a communication has been sent that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false, there are a number of factors that are likely to mean that a prosecution is not in the public interest.
One of these factors is whether the suspect has taken swift action to remove the communication or expressed genuine remorse.
Brown apologized and removed the items. It is difficult to see any public interest in taking the matter any further.

The Scotsman has some figures which may also be of interest:
Scotland Yard revealed that three police officers have been sacked for misusing social media over the past five years. Allegations linked to the use of sites including Facebook and Twitter have been recorded against 75 Metropolitan Police officers since 2009, with 38 of the claims substantiated.
Disclaimer: this post is merely a link to relevant documents.


Update 1 May 2013

Olswang LLP, who represented Paris Brown, have provided an excellent summary of the case. 

Essentially, the police had to respond to the 50 complaints about a few tweets although they've got plenty of burglaries, murders and rapes to be going on with.

Responding suitably should have taken about a morning to check the published guidelines and note that the material arguably didn't come with in the scope of the guidelines, it had been removed, an apology had been given, and Paris Brown was under 18 so the bar for prosecution is set very high.  They could have asked a CPS lawyer if they weren't sure what the guidelines meant.  Then they could have politely declined to take the matter further.

Instead - and this is what we should be kicking about - they used the mere excuse of complaints of being offended to confiscate property and interview a child under caution.    Then they had to drop any thought of charges since it was obviously a non-starter.  Well done to Olswang for highlighting this abuse of process.


It is obviously ridiculous that a teenager has to call in a lawyer to protect her from the agents of the state who should have had more sense than to join in with child-kicking.     Was their purpose in doing so nothing to do with the 50 complaints but rather a convenient excuse to examine communications between a police commissioner and her appointee?   

Following the irregularities in the Andrew Mitchell Affair (which is still being investigated)  there needs to be an independent investigation of the 50 source complaints to see if they were in fact genuine members of the public or if there was a concerted action by either a political lobby, police or those connected to them such as close family. 


DtP said...

And yet(!)

It kinda makes you think perhaps someone's taking the piss?

Woman on a Raft said...

There are plenty of things one could, and should, lose a job or be prosecuted for. It is certainly a very good question as to why more people resign over stupid tweets than dead detainees.

I don't rule out disciplinary action for making the kind of statements which bring the police in to disrepute, but it seems very hard that saying a few gobby things should cost a person their career rather than, say, a note on their personnel record suggesting that they are not promoted to any more senior role.

OTOH, going out of their way to assault an old newspaper seller with a drink problem, who was shuffling off anyway, seems to me something which should never have been allowed to happen since the culprit had already been chucked out once.

JuliaM said...

Interesting new development:

Woman on a Raft said...

Barnes annoys me. As soon as the story broke she should have gone in to child-protection mode. It doesn't matter that the young woman is a bit of a lulu; kids are daft. Not all of them, but since Barnes had taken the precaution of appointing a daft one, what else could she possibly expect?

Instead, the horrible woman pushed the girl out in front of the cameras in an effort to save her own face - emphasis, this was Barnes' face, not Brown's - thereby creating thousands more records which will hang around for eons.

If Barnes had quietly withdrawn the job offer - as she could since the appointment was not due to start for several weeks - Brown's media exposure would have been much more limited and there would have been less mileage in arguing about the tweets.

It is precisely because she put the girl further in the spotlight that Barnes should now step down.

At this rate we are going to need second-derivative commissioners to hold the commissioners themselves to account.