Online Crime (Sentencing)

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 17th March 2015.

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Photo of Mike Weatherley Mike Weatherley Conservative, Hove 11:30 am, 17th March 2015

If he will bring forward legislative proposals to reduce the disparity between sentences for physical and online crime.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The sentences that are available for crimes that are committed online are the same as those for offences that are committed offline. Fraud or malicious communications, for example, carry severe maximum penalties, whether committed online or offline. Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the courts. Sentencing guidelines are issued by the independent Sentencing Council to help ensure that there is proportionate and consistent sentencing.

Photo of Mike Weatherley Mike Weatherley Conservative, Hove

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the report released last week that suggested that the punishments for online and offline crime should be equalised demonstrates that education is needed to show that the two sentences should be equal?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I pay tribute to him, since this is his last Justice questions, for the work that he has done in this area over the past five years. He will be much missed in this place and I wish him the very best for the future. This is one area where his work has had an impact on the way in which the Government think and the way in which legislation is shaped.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

The growth in online crime suggests that many people still do not understand that what is illegal offline is illegal online. Has the time come to make websites and social media operators verify the identity of the people who use their services in the UK to make it easier for people to be held accountable for their actions online?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My right hon. Friend has also done important work in this area, including her success in dealing with the issue of revenge porn. I have a lot of sympathy with what she says. This area needs continuous scrutiny, and my Department and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport continue to work closely on it. It is an area in which the next Parliament will have to do further work.