The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published a 14-page guide which aims to prevent repeats of the so-called Twitter joke trial.
The CPS was widely ridiculed for pursuing Doncaster accountant Paul Chambers for more than two years after he joked that he wanted to blow up Doncaster airport when it was closed due to heavy snowfall.
Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said “considerable caution” should now be taken before bringing charges against social media posters to avoid a chilling effect on free speech.
It means that people who apologise and delete posts which are “grossly offensive, obscene or false” are less likely to face charges. Starmer has made a clear distinction between these offences and those which involve threats of violence, harassment, stalking, or court order breaches such as anonymity for rape victims.
Starmer’s “high threshold” in the guide also outlines that charges can only be brought against posts which are shown to be either more than offensive, shocking or disturbing; more than satirical, iconoclastic or rude; or more than the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters or banter or humour, even if distasteful or painful to those subjected to it.