Cyber-bullies could be given tougher sentences

The proposals were put forward by an MP whose 14-year-old constituent was bombarded with obscene messages

The Government today backed tougher laws that could see cyber stalkers imprisoned for up for two years.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the new rules will target offenders who abusing or sexually harass victims online or on mobiles.

MP Angie Bray proposed the change after a constituent said her 14-year-old daughter had been “verbally raped” by an older man who sent her 2,000 texts over 18 months. Prosecutors failed to secure a conviction.

The change would also give prosecutors more time to build a case in an area of law where it can be difficult to get a conviction. It follows incidents in which mobiles or websites such as Twitter and Facebook were used to abuse people.

Ealing Central and Acton MP Ms Bray told the Evening Standard: “Most of us are absolutely appalled by some of the dreadful things abusers say on social networking sites.

“It’s got to the point were some people are literally hounded to death. There must be a way to ensure that when bullying gets to this level the law reflects how serious it is.”

Mr Grayling said: “We’ve got rules in place to stop people being harassed or distressed by any particular means of communication.

“Now we’re just making sure that those rules are as robust as possible.”

He added: “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.”

Currently offences under the Malicious Communications Act can only be tried at magistrates’ courts, which can impose a prison sentence no longer than six months.

Ms Bray’s plan would give magistrates the ability to send such cases for trial at crown court, where the jail term given could be four times longer and there is more time to bring a case.

The change will be discussed by a committee of MPs on Thursday and if approved will be added to laws to be voted on later this year.

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