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British trolls to face 'tougher penalties' over online abuse

Tories want to make cyber-bullying 'just a bit harder'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The Tory-led government is supporting calls for more stringent legislation to tackle trolls who hurl abuse at others online in England and Wales.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling backed Conservative MP Angie Bray's demands for changes to the law on Monday.

"Just tabled amendment to Criminal Justice Bill to make life just a bit harder for cyber-bullies and sex pests using texts to harass victims," the politico said on her Twitter account.

According to the Evening Standard, Grayling agreed that the legislation needed to be tightened to protect victims from malicious comments being directed at them on free content ad networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

It comes in light of some high profile cases over the past year involving celebrities and others in the public eye who complained to the police, after being verbally attacked online with death threats and abusive messages.

Perhaps the most notorious example was the one involving feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. Two people were later found guilty of sending menacing communications after Criado-Perez made a formal statement to police in July 2013 about being harassed online.

But the accused ended up only with short stays behind bars.

Offences under the Malicious Communications Act currently only carry prison sentences that are no longer than six months, because such cases are heard at magistrates' courts.

The proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which will be discussed in Parliament on Thursday, could change that.

"We've got rules in place to stop people being harassed or distressed by any particular means of communication," Grayling told the Standard.

"Now we're just making sure that those rules are as robust as possible."

He said:

Part of the purpose of this Bill is to toughen up some of the penalties that offenders face when they break the law - and this particular amendment that Angie has proposed will help achieve that.

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