With the ever-growing popularity of social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it is important to take a step back and consider how you use them. You need to make sure that you and your children not only control the personal information that is put onto social media but also your behaviour on such sites.
Control your information online
Be aware of the potential for cyber-enabled fraud. Fraudsters can use information obtained from such sites to commit identity theft. Telling everyone about your forthcoming holiday may also be an advance initiation to a burglar – it is surprising how much information we reveal about ourselves over a period of time.
If you have children you also need to be aware of the dangers of persons contacting them and then grooming your child, building an emotional attachment to them with a view to a meeting for the purpose of sexual abuse or exploitation.
Many online games allow for messaging between users – do you know who your child is talking to?
Control your behaviour
Many offences can be committed in the heat of the moment, or drink, the typing of a comment that cannot then be taken back.
Trolling, or sending abusive messages online, can be an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003, with stiff penalties in both cases.
Revenge porn, for example publishing intimate images of an ex-partner without their consent, is now a criminal offence and often results in a prison sentence.
What may seem to be banter may actually be offensive, what may be intended to be seen by a few could be seen by thousands.
A fake social networking profile or account may also be a criminal offence in certain circumstances.
What about freedom of speech?
This is not an absolute right and may be restricted where necessary and proportionate.
Think it couldn’t happen to you?
Remember the Robin Hood Airport case? A young man made what he intended to be a jokey comment about blowing up the airport if he couldn’t make his flight due to adverse weather.
He found himself in court, was convicted by magistrates, and again on appeal before finally his conviction was quashed at a second High Court appeal. By then he had already lost his job as a consequence of the conviction.
What are the consequences?
Social media has even recently been blamed for an increase in knife crime as it can amplify the effect of violence. Accordingly, online offences are being dealt with seriously.
Last year the Crown Prosecution Service updated its policy statements in order to take account of the increase in online abuse, saying that individuals need to appreciate they can’t go online and press a button without any consequences.
At the other end of the spectrum, saying something unpopular or unpleasant is not unlawful, people’s sensitivities need to be balanced with free speech, and we see reported a number of cases that cause us concern.
This tide of sensitivity could result in people pleading guilty when in fact they are not – always take early advice.
How can we help?
If you need further advice in respect of any potential criminal matter please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More
It may be an offence to fail to provide information as the identity of a driver when you receive a written request to do so from (or on behalf of) the police. If convicted, you face a hefty fine and 6 penalty points.
How long do they have to make the request?
A request must normally be served within 14 days of the offence being committed. There is case law where because a postal strike delayed the mail and it was delivered after the 14-day period, the offence was not committed.
If you have any doubt as to whether the notice was served within the requisite time, please contact us for further advice. In some circumstances a valid request can be made after the 14-day period, so do not ignore a request simply because you believe it to be out of time – always seek legal advice.
How long do I have to reply?
From the date the notice is served you have 28 days to reply, or “as soon as practicable after the end of that period”.
Right against self-incrimination
A number of case have dealt with this issue and, put simply, it doesn’t matter, the requirement to identify the driver does not affect your human rights. The court has said “those who choose to keep and drive a car can be taken to have accepted certain responsibilities” and those include the obligation to provide information upon request as to the driver.
What if I really don’t know who was driving?
If you genuinely do not know who was driving, you may have a defence to an allegation of failing to provide driver information.
The defence is that you “could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained who the driver of the vehicle was”. You need, therefore, to make all reasonable enquiries to find out who the driver was, and you will still need to reply to the request, providing what assistance you can. Again, it is best to seek early legal advice as a recent case involving the former politician Lord Howard, has opened up a number of interesting legal arguments.
I did not receive the request and now I have been summonsed, what do I do?
You may have a defence to the allegation. Please contact us for further advice.
What if I provide false information?
It can be tempting to name a spouse, or even someone abroad, in the hope of avoiding penalty points. To do so would amount to perverting the course of justice – which almost always results in a prison sentence. Chris Huhne, a former cabinet minister and his wife, Vicky Pryce, found this out the hard way. So, don’t do it.
It is a defence to show that there was no record kept of the driver and that the failure to keep a record was reasonable. The notice can be served by sending it to a secretary or a clerk, at the registered or principal office. It may seem obvious, but a company cannot be given penalty points, so the penalty here would be a fine.
In certain circumstances proceedings can also be brought against company directors, so a company cannot be used as a shield against prosecution for this offence. If your company operates a company car pool it would be wise to ensure that you have robust procedures in place in order to track vehicle usage.
Public funding may be available for such a case, so please contact us for further information.
How we can assist
The law concerning requests for driver information can be complicated. This article is intended to give only a very brief overview of the issues involved.
If you have any concerns or simply to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.comRead More