On, 23 January 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service in London issued a press release stating that they “had authorised the Metropolitan Police Service to charge Peter Nunn, 33, from Bristol, under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 over messages allegedly sent to Stella Creasy MP ... Mr Nunn is to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 6 February 2014”. Mr Nunn is the third individual to face Court over messages sent to Ms Creasy following her involvement in a high profile campaign for a female figure to appear on a Bank of England note. On 7 January 2014, two other individuals were convicted of sending abusive messages to Caroline Criado-Perez in relation to the same campaign.
In 2012, I wrote two blogs in relation to malicious communications and the approach to be taken by the Crown Prosecution Service following the High Court Judgement in the case of Paul Chambers (see Menacing communications: time for a more common sense approach? and Malicious communications: a more sensible approach?). As a result of the Judgement in the Paul Chambers case, the CPS issued first a consultation and then guidelines on the approach to be taken in cases involving social media. These Guidelines are now being applied by the CPS and were relied upon in deciding to charge Mr Nunn. At the time the Guidelines were issued Keir Starmer, the then-DPP, stated that a “person had the right to say things that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population” but “that prosecutions may be appropriate where conduct is a sustained campaign of harassment of an individual, where Court Orders are flouted or where grossly offensive or threatening remarks are made and maintained”. The guilty pleas in relation to this issue at the beginning of January and this current prosecution are indicative of this line of reasoning being applied in practice. The Crown Prosecution Service is clearly setting down a marker with these prosecutions, which is that sustained abuse against an individual using Twitter will result in prosecution.