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July 31, 2013

More than 1,700 cases of online and text message abuse ‘were heard at court in 2012’

Freedom of Information request demonstrates rise in number of abusive messages.

By Joe Curtis

More than 1,700 cases involving abusive messages sent online or via text were heard at English and Welsh courts last year, according to a BBC Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

The BBC reported this was a 10% increase on 2011’s figures, while nearly 600 charges have been heard from January to May this year.

The FoI indicates that the number of cases fell between 2010 and 2011 – from 1,637 to 1,537, before increasing to 1,716 in 2012.

However, the nature of the way the data is stored by the Crown Prosecution Service means it cannot find out how many individuals these charges related to nor how many cases led to a successful prosecution.

The news comes after Labour MP Stella Creasy complained to police that she was the victim of abusive tweets.

She received the messages after backing feminist campaigner and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned successfully for a woman to be featured on a banknote.

Both Creasy and Criado-Perez received rape and death threats on Twitter, and a 25-year-old man from South Shields has been arrested on suspicion of harassment of the pair.

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Earlier a 21-year-old man arrested on suspicion of harassment was bailed until mid-September.

Twitter is under pressure to do more to tackle online abuse on the social networking site, and MPs plan to question its executives.

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