Internet trolls who target people with abusive or offensive material online will face up to 2 years in prison.

Internet trolls who target people with abusive or offensive material online will face up to two years in prison and the police will have more time to investigate cases as part of the government’s commitment to protecting victims of crime.

In the past a number of high profile celebrities such as Rylan Clark, Duncan James, Boy George and Joe McElderry have all suffered at the hands of online trolls.

The government is changing the law to increase the maximum sentence for the offence of sending certain items with the intent to cause distress or anxiety. This will mean more serious offences can be dealt with in the Crown Court and there will not be a time limit for police and Crown Prosecution Service to bring a prosecution.

THREE YEARS TO BRING PROSECUTIONS

Alongside this, the government is also changing the law to allow up to 3 years, as opposed to 6 months as previously, to bring prosecutions against people for using the internet, social media or mobile phones to send menacing messages.

Justice Minister Chris Grayling said,

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“The sending of abusive messages or material online can cause absolute misery for victims and we need to make sure that people who commit these awful crimes are properly punished.

“We already have offences in place to deal with this appalling behaviour, but we’ve toughened up the law to make sure these crimes can be properly investigated and those who commit the most serious offences face a longer prison sentence.”

Changes to the law will be made through the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, currently going through Parliament. This comes on top of a raft of government measures to support victims. Next year, victims’ rights to tell the court how their crime has affected them will be set out in statute; a new nationwide Victims’ Information Service will be set up to ensure better information and support; and millions of pounds will be invested in improving the court experience.

Crucially, we will also develop plans to require advocates to undergo specialist training before taking part in sexual abuse or rape trials, which will make going to court easier and less distressing for victims. All vulnerable victims and witnesses will also be given greater opportunity to give evidence away from the court building, and we will work towards rolling out pre-trial cross examination for child victims nationally, subject to the evaluation of on-going pilots.

The government also provides £4.4 million annually to fund rape support centres and has met its commitment to open 15 new support facilities across the country since 2010.