There is no doubting that Facebook is the most widely used outlet of social media. However, from a solicitor’s perspective, the mere mention of it sends a shudder down the spine. Once a post is uploaded, there is no going back. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. The consequences of an ill-advised post or comment can be monumental.
There are circumstances where the improper use of Facebook can give rise to criminal prosecution. To send an offensive or obscene message to someone, even if only once, whist intoxicated, in the heat of the moment, could result in you being prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act, and facing up to two years in prison.
An ill-advised post could also land you in seriously hot water. Recently, a male was sentenced to a Suspended Sentence Order by a Crown Court Judge for Production of Cannabis. The sentence was relatively lenient. Within half an hour of its submission, the individual concerned posted on Facebook insulting the judge who very quickly got wind of it, and called the male back before him under the “slip rule”. He was then remanded in custody for 28 days, in order that sentence could be re-considered.
Private messages between partners can also cause significant problems upon the breakdown of a relationship. Since 13 April 2015, it is an offence to disclose private sexual photographs or films with intent to cause distress. The offence, commonly known as “Revenge Porn” also carries up to two year’s imprisonment.
Whilst social media has its place, from a legal perspective, it is rife with its complications and inevitably causes more problems than it solves. Witnesses contacting defendants or vice versa, ill-advised posts about upcoming or even concluded cases, can seriously hamper the natural course of justice, and could result in more trouble than was ever intended.
From a criminal solicitor’s point of view, if there is one rule to take over the use of social media... DON’T!
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to JNP Legal directly.
Published on 24th May 2016
(Last updated 23rd March 2018)