20/03/24

Encouraging or Assisting Serious Self-harm

Encouraging or Assisting Serious Self-harm
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Encouraging or assisting another person in taking or attempting to take their own life is already considered an offence under the Suicide Act 1961. Nonetheless, there is acceptance that further action is necessary, particularly given the rise in hospital admissions due to self-harm among children aged ten to fourteen between 2022 and 2023. Broadening the legal scope to include the 'deliberate encouragement or assistance of serious self-harm' might offer a solution to addressing this escalating issue.

Section 184 of the Online Safety Act 2023 (‘the Act’) creates the offence of ‘encouraging or assisting serious self-harm’. It is designed to combat the ever-increasing level of online ‘trolling’ on social media platforms believed to be a contributing factor in the worrying increase in reported ‘self-harm’ incidents.

Helen Holder outlines the nature of the offence.

Assisting Serious Self-harm | The New Offence

The Act provides at section 184 that:

(1) A person commits an offence:

  • by carrying out any relevant act which encourages or assists the serious self- harm of another person
  • with the intent of encouraging or assisting such harm.

(2) That person carries out a relevant act by:

  • communicating in person,
  • sending, transmitting, or publishing an electronic communication,
  • showing a person such a communication,
  • publishing material by any means other than electronically,
  • sending, giving, showing, or making available to a person material published by means other than electronically or any form of correspondence or
  • making available to a person an item on which data is stored electronically.

Note

  • Section 184 (4) states that the person referred to at section 184 (1) above need not be a specific person (or class of persons) known to or identified by the accused.
  • Sections 184 (5) states that the offence may be committed whether or not serious self-harm occurs.

What is Serious Self-harm?

Serious self-harm means grievous bodily harm within the meaning of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 ‘and includes successive acts of self-harm which cumulatively reach that threshold.’ Grievous bodily harm involves injuries such as disfigurement caused by an acid attack, lacerations, broken bones, or any other serious injury requiring medical attention.

As Section 184 enables the cumulative consequences of several acts of self-harm to be considered, it will assist Prosecutions against those who have encouraged or assisted self-harm over a period.

Additionally, for the purposes of this offence, the self-harm can include omissions on the victim’s part, such as not eating or failing to take medication.

Sentencing Upon Conviction

This offence is triable ‘either way,’ meaning it can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court, depending upon the severity of the offence.

In the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence is an unlimited fine, a term of imprisonment for twelve months, or both. In the Crown Court, the maximum sentence is a fine, imprisonment for a period of five years, or both.

How Can We Help?

The KANGS team have extensive knowledge and a great depth of experience gained from assisting clients facing allegations of criminal activity over many years, resulting in a distinguished nationwide reputation for the quality of our services.

Our Team understands the immense pressure individuals and their families experience when confronted with serious criminal allegations. We are dedicated to providing assistance and pursuing the best possible outcome, should you require our assistance, please contact using the details below.

Tel:       0333 370 4333
Email: info@kangssolicitors.co.uk

We provide an initial no obligation consultation from our offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Alternatively, we provide initial consultations by telephone or video.

Helen Holder

Helen Holder
Partner

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Sukhdip Randhawa

Sukhdip Randhawa
Legal Director

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Mohammed Ahmed

Mohammed Ahmed
Associate

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