Is sending a private message without consent a crime
Sending a private message without consent could be a crime in the UK. Being harassed by texts is considered as harassment and as such is illegal. The article below provides information about the law relating to sending private messages without the consent of the recipient.
Individuals who suffer from harassment by texting often find that there is very little help available to them. The police and telephone companies tend to be slow to react. Here are some tips that can help you handle being harassed by texts. The reason for the slow reaction is that text messages are relatively complicated to investigate. Harassment by text requires the police to obtain telephone records from the mobile phone companies, on the face of it a relatively simple process. However, police officers who investigate harassment need special permission before they are able to request telephone records due to concerns for human rights and privacy of the mobile telephone owner. This could take some time to obtain and is a procedure which makes the process of obtaining telephone records lengthy and often disproportionately expensive..
Yes. unwanted text messages are considered harassment under English law. The law defines harassment as repeated, unwanted contact. This contact can come in any form, from anywhere whether it is in person, on the internet or by mobile or a landlines telephone. Being harassed by text messages is yet another form of harassment that can cause emotional upset and anxiety to the victim and often this form of harassment comes together with other harassing activities.
Unwanted text messages constitute harassment regardless of whether they are of a threatening nature. The law says that it is unlawful to cause someone harassment by texting and you have the right to take action regardless of whether the specific words in the text messages are of a threatening nature. Victims of harassment feel threatened by the very nature of the harassment and the feeling of fear could come regardless of the words used in the text message. If you have tried blocking phone numbers and are still receiving unwanted text messages you probably want to report the harassment to the police.
Take screenshots of the text messages or connect the telephone to your computer and follow your phone instructions on transferring data from your phone to the computer. Save those text messages as PDF files. This will stamp the date and time of each of the messages. To find out whether your phone can do this, go to your phone’s manual and if you don’t have that, you can find it online or ask the manufacturer on their website. There should be steps to show you how.
For instance, you may be able to press Home and Lock buttons, Home and Volume Lock or three fingers on the screen swiped down to screenshot the evidence. You will be able to find it in your Gallery or Files. If your phone is not capable of doing so, you can use a camera on another mobile device to take photos. You will also want to "Lock" or "Protect" each harassing message. But you also need to be sure that you have backup copies in the event that something happens to your phone so your data is not lost.
You will need to write to your mobile phone company and ask for this information. Some mobile phone providers might ask you to file a formal Subject Access Request. There may be a small charge. When you contact your phone provider make sure to tell them that you are being harassed by texts and ask them to preserve evidence. They will have one month to respond to your request. When you receive copies of the text messages, save, print it and highlight the exact lines on the records that show harassment.
A file is useful here. Use it to put all of your evidence together and make it easy for the police to navigate. Include as much information as you can. For example, use one folder or a divider for your mobile phone print out, another could be any images, a third could be the proof of any efforts you have made to stop the harassment. This might include text messages where you are telling the perpetrator to stop harassing you and the fourth folder could contain any history of your communication with the person that you think/know is harassing you.
If it is an ex-relationship, for instance, you could show your message telling that person that the relationship is over or ‘stop bothering me’, ‘leave me alone’, ‘stop harassing me or I will call the police’. Anything and everything. So, any emails or social media messages that show you have done your best to let that person know to stop. Be thorough. Find out whether that person is harassing others and if so, gather all the evidence together.
Photocopy everything or take pictures of everything before you hand it over. If you can scan it and save it all in a folder on your computer too, that gives you a back up of the copies. The evidence that you give to the police about your harassment by texts may be kept by them for a long time or if they call you, you have it to hand as reference. Also, you may need to provide it to a lawyer. Include all of your contact information on your folder. If you have any information about your harasser: name, nicknames, aliases, online names, email address, home address, phone number, etc. – put that inside the folder because you do not want it returned to them by accident.
The police will often encourage you to report the harassment online. However, you might prefer to take your harassment report and evidence to your local police station. Your local police might need to pass the information on to the police station which is local to your harasser's place of residence. You can read more here about reporting harassment. Explain what has been happening and that you have all evidence of being harassed by texts. Keep it short and simple when explaining to the receptionist and ask if you can speak to someone as soon as possible. Speak clearly and try not to express how you may be really feeling: ‘She is a crazy person and needs locking up’ is not going to get you help any quicker. Stay calm. State that you are being harassed by texts and that you have asked them to stop on numerous occasions. Be honest and clear. 'It is getting worse, I feel distressed and I am fearful for my safety. I have all of the corresponding evidence with me and the name of the individual' (if known, of course).
If the police tell you that they are unable to deal with your compliant, consider leaving your folder of evidence with the front desk at the police station. Do not take it away, even if they ask you to. They will have to look at it and start an investigation. Tell them that it is harassment. Ask the receptionist for the police officer’s name and number that will most likely be in touch with you and an indication of when they will contact you. If you receive any more harassment in the meantime, document that but if it is a life-threatening text that you receive, call the police immediately. Do not wait. Reporting harassment to the police could be proved challenging. For more information read the article Report Harassment to the Police.
Unfortunately, many of the police forces across the UK are still learning how to address online harassment, text and email harassment, cyberbullying, etc. It is important to remember that online harassment is the same as offline and must be treated the same way. There aren’t two societies. Tell the police that it is harassment and no different than offline harassment. Too many police forces do not know how to specifically deal with any crime that occurs online yet, as they believe that the internet is not their jurisdiction. The internet does not have a specific jurisdiction, so if you live physically in that police force’s area, it is an issue that they must deal with.
If you feel that the police is unhelpful, obtain independent legal advice. You do not have to take the police advice as being the be all and end all. The police has got their own interests, pressures, targets and so on. Your case might not be at the top of their priorities and the advice that you are given by the police might be lacking substance or in some cases, wrong. You can contact us or any other specialist harassment lawyer for advice. Make sure you speak to an harassment specialist solicitor who understands harassment from a legal and victim's point of view. Being harassed by texts can seriously affect your life. You can call us free for a confidential chat on 0800 612 7211.