Twitter: hundreds of children investigated over online abuse

May 29, 2014

Policing the internet becomes 'daily task' for UK's forces, with 20,000 adult cases in three years

Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

Nearly 2,000 children have been investigated by police over online abuse in the last three years. More than 1,200 have been charged with a criminal offence or given a caution, warning or fine, including children as young as nine, according to Sky News. Among the offences were social media abuse, offensive tweets and online bullying.

Almost 20,000 adults have been subject to police probes in the last three years thanks to their online behaviour, the equivalent of 20 a day. Cases have risen by more than five per cent since 2011.

The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, "lay bare for the first time how policing the internet has become a daily task for Britain's forces", says Sky News. The true number of investigations is likely to be even greater, as a third of police forces failed to provide figures.

There have been a series of high-profile prosecutions in recent years. Isabella Sorley, 23, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and John Nimmo, 25, from South Shields, pleaded guilty earlier this year to bombarding journalist Caroline Criado-Perez with abusive messages on Twitter and threatening her with attacks "worse than rape". Sorley was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, while Nimmo was jailed for eight weeks.

Earlier this month Robert Riley, 42, from Port Talbot, was jailed for eight weeks for posting abusive Twitter messages following the killing of school teacher Ann Maguire.

Last year, Hertfordshire Police was the force to investigate and charge the most people – 1,042 – under Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which covers abuse on Twitter or other social media sites, in text messages or through nuisance phone calls. The Metropolitan Police had the highest three-year figure of 2,099.

Luke Roberts, a social network expert at Beat Bullying, told Sky News: "There are more devices than ever. So whether it's smartphones, internet-connected TVs, more apps – they allow more young people to be harassed than ever before."

Sign up for our daily newsletter