Tag Archives: facebook

Social media crime and how to avoid it

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 your use of 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 to steer clear of social media crime.

social media crime

Control your online information

 Be aware of the potential for cyber-enabled fraud. Fraudsters can use information obtained from such sites to commit identity theft. social media crimeTelling everyone about your forthcoming holiday may also be an advance invitation 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.  This involves 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 own behaviour

 Many offences can be committed in the heat of the moment or when in drink.  They will involve the typing of a comment that cannot then be taken back.

social media crimeTrolling, or sending abusive messages online, can be an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003.  Stiff penalties can be imposed in either case.

Revenge porn, involving publishing intimate images of an ex-partner without their consent, is now a criminal offence and often results in a prison sentence.  This article deals with this type of offending in more detail.

What may seem to be banter to you may actually be offensive.  What may be intended to be seen by a few could end up being seen by thousands of social media users.

The use of a fake social networking profile or account may also be a criminal offence in certain circumstances.

What about freedom of speech and social media crime?

 Freedom of speech is not an absolute right and may be restricted where necessary and proportionate.

 Think it couldn’t happen to you?

 You might remember the Robin Hood Airport case?  In that 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 and was convicted by magistrates.  He lost his appeal to the crown court.  His conviction was finally 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 recently been blamed for an increase in knife social media crimecrime.  It is argued that 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,.  The change is to emphasise that individuals need to appreciate they can’t go online and use their keyboard without any consequences.

At the other end of the spectrum, saying something unpopular or unpleasant is not unlawful.  People’s sensitivities do 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.

How can we help defend social media crime?

Social media crime will involve serious allegations and the law is complex.  As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early advice legal advice can be found here.

If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.  Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

We have offices across the East Midlands.  You can find your most convenient office here.   Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.

social media crime
VHS Fletchers solicitors East Midlands offices


Flawed Facebook Identification

Chesterfield crime solicitor David Gittins recently defended a juvenile before Chesterfield Youth Court.  His client was charged with the serious offence of robbery based on a Facebook identification.

Notwithstanding a positive identification of his client by the victim, David’s meticulous flawed facebook identificationpreparation of the case led to successful representations to the prosecution.  These resulted in the Crown discontinued the case several weeks before the trial was due to start.

Continuity of Representation

David’s client had the advantage of having continuity of representation.  David provided advice and assistance to the client at Chesterfield Police station.  He then continued with this representation at court.

In brief the complainant told police that the client and another male had got out of a car, pushed and kicked him to the floor, and stole a packet of cigarettes. The complainant provided a description of those involved to the police.  He then  searched Facebook to see if he could recognise those involved. During this process he thought he recognised David’s client as one of the males involved.

Full Alibi Provided to Police

David attended the Police station and advised the client who denied the offence.  He stated that he was not there.  He went on to   provide a full alibi. This account was provided to the Police in the form of a written statement including the names of several witnesses who could support chesterfield police stationthe client’s account. One of the witnesses was a social worker.  This was an attempt to ensure that the police conducted a proper investigation.

To David’s surprise, Instead of speaking to these witnesses the police focused time and money on conducting a Video Identification Procedure (VIPER).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, his client was identified again by the same witness as having been involved in the offence.

As a result, he was charged with the offence of robbery on the basis of the Facebook Identification without the other witnesses being spoken to by the police.  This was despite David’s representations to the contrary.

Early Preparation

David kept conduct of the matter when the case reached Chesterfield Youth Court.  He immediately set about to obtain the evidence to support the client’s alibi and undermine the identification evidence. David took statements from defence witnesses including social workers and family members, as well as contacting other agencies to prove where the his client was at specific times.

David also correctly identified that there were obvious differences between the description of the robber given by the complainant and David’s client.

Having gathered this alibi evidence and considered the quality of the prosecution evidence, David drafted a list of admissions for the  trial. His intention was that the prosecution agree these prior to trial.

These included maps, distances between specific locations and photographs of the Identification procedures. These were agreed by the prosecution.

Weakness in the Facebook Identification

Once they had been agreed, David wrote a detailed letter to the Prosecution outlining all of the difficulties they had with their case , particularly in the light of the agreed admissions and the alibi witnesses.  Upon further consideration of the case following those representations the Prosecution accepted David’s facebook-thumbpoints, including the weaknesses in the Facebook identification.  The cases was discontinued without the need for a trial.

This case demonstrates how a diligent and focused criminal law specialist can make a real difference to the direction of a case.  Early preparation put pressure on the prosecution to review the case in our client’s favour.  Although we must have been confident of winning the case at trial, David’s approach removed all risk from any court hearing.

Contact David Gittins

Should you wish to contact Chesterfield crime solicitor David Gittins to discuss a new or ongoing case please telephone him at our Chesterfield office 01246 283000 or email him here.