PPS Guidelines for Prosecuting Cases involving Electronic Communications

Closed 28 Feb 2022

Opened 15 Nov 2021


This is a public consultation by the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS) to seek your views on our new guidelines for prosecuting cases involving electronic communications.

These guidelines are aimed at explaining the approach of the PPS when considering cases where it is alleged that criminal offences have been committed by the sending of an electronic communication, including communications sent via social media. 

‘Electronic communications’ include calls and text messages sent by means of the telephone network, posts on internet discussion forums, streaming of video using the internet and YouTube and other messages sent by or on social media platforms. Social media in this context refers to social networks accessible on the internet which can be used for social interaction between users and the instant sending of messages either to chosen recipients or worldwide. Current examples of social network applications include Facebook/Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Google+. There are many others and the list is changing rapidly as new applications are being created and others lose their appeal.

These guidelines cover the offences that are likely to be most commonly committed by the sending of electronic communications and in particular those sent by text or by using social media. Offences may apply in respect of an original communication and also any resending of communications.

The document can be accessed here:

PPS Guidelines for Prosecuting Cases involving Electronic Communications (November 2021)

It should be noted that initial equality screening has been carried out and no differential impacts were identified. However comments will also be welcomed from any person or organisations representing Section 75 groups that can highlight any aspect of the guidelines which may result in an unintentional impact. The initial screening form is available via the Equality area of the PPS website. 

Why your views matter

The PPS would welcome comments from any interested individuals or groups regarding the scope and content of this document. You are invited to submit your views using a short questionnaire (9 questions in total) which can be accessed via the link below.

At the end of the consultation period, copies of responses received by the PPS may be made publicly available. The information will also be published in a summary of responses which will be made available on the PPS website. If you do not want all or part of your response or name made public, please state this clearly in your response. Any confidentiality disclaimer that may be generated by you or your organisation's IT system or included as a general statement in your fax cover sheet, will be taken to apply only to information in your response for which confidentiality has been specifically requested.

Any personal data which you provide will be handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018. Respondents should also be aware that the PPS's obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may require that responses not subject to specific exemptions in the Act may be communicated to third parties on request.

Data Protection

The Data Controller of this information is the Public Prosecution Service, 93 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 3JR. The Data Protection Officer for the Service can be contacted at dpo@ppsni.gov.uk.

Details of why we collect your data, what we do with it, and how we protect your privacy, along with the PPS Retention and Disposal Policy (detailing the time periods for which different classes of data are retained), can be found on the PPS website. The relevant Privacy Notice can be viewed here.


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