Flirting by text message could soon become a
very risky business for anyone who happens to live in Scotland. Indeed,
an email or text message containing sexual content might just be enough
to send you to prison for a lengthy stretch inside.
The stiff penalty is deliberate, designed to stamp out what the
Scottish Law Commission
refer to as a growing problem. According to an Out-Law report
the sending of offensive messages in
the workplace has become more commonplace.
That might well be true, but the new law is far too broad in its
definition of indecent communication. It will be up to the courts to
determine just who gets jailed for what, it seems.
The basis of what is a sweeping revision of sex crime laws in Scotland
is sound enough: sending messages that have an intent to humiliate or
distress the recipient is something that needs to be punishable by law.
Yet the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill
also states that the offence will be committed if the court decides a
message was sent to provide the sender with sexual gratification. Quite
how that can be determined is another matter.
Creating a clear legal framework for sex crimes is an honourable
intent. Ending up with a Bill which criminalises the sender of a joke
text message, or a flirtatious email whose recipient does not share the
attraction in the sober light of day, is quite different.
The dating game is hard enough as it is, adding jail time
for not understanding the body language or getting carried away with
your flirting only makes it harder.
Of course, some offences of 'communicating
indecently' are more clear cut. Sending images of a person engaged in
sexual activity without the recipient's permission, where the sexual
gratification or humiliation arguments are proven, being a good
example. In fact this even opens up another new offence, that of
'coercing a person into looking at an image of sexual activity.'
Then just as you thought the law might not be a Scottish ass after all,
things go a little pear shaped once more. Apparently it will also be an
offence to cause a person to see or hear an indecent communication.
According to Out-Law
this will include
"communicating the sounds of actual or simulated sexual activity." So no more acting out your When Harry
Met Sally scenes in public then ladies.
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