Hate mail and the Malicious Communications Act 1988

Hate mail is usually anonymous, but if it can be traced the sender can also be prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 which makes it an offence to send a letter or other article which conveys an indecent or grossly offensive message or a threat, or which contains information known to be false, where the purpose of sending it is to cause distress or anxiety.

The category of communications covered by the Malicious Communications Act 1988 has been expanded by the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 to cover the sending, delivery or transmission of electronic communications or articles of any description. This new definition will cover hate telephone calls, emails or text messages. The defence to such an offence has also been amended so that it will be necessary to show that a demand made in such a communication was made on reasonable grounds, and the person making it held an honest and reasonable belief that the threat made was a proper means of reinforcing that demand.

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