Fewer criminal charges for internet trolls in England and Wales

Fewer criminal charges are likely to be brought in England and Wales against people who post offensive messages on Twitter and Facebook.

Criminal prosecutions over online messages have mushroomed in the last 18 months, and the Director of Public Prosecutions has warned of a "chilling effect on free speech".

Comments have to be "beyond offensive" to be prosecuted - and a swift apology or deletion will probably avert that. Only credible threats of violence, or targetted harrassment will be pursued.

Scotland has no plans to issue similar guidelines but prosecutors already take a hard line to online abuse.

The courts of England and Wales have also pledged to "robustly prosecute" those that fall foul of the guidelines.

But freedom of speech must be protected, so tackling trolls may need a thick skin more than a good lawyer.

Scotland Tonight looked at the issue and discussed it in the studio with Gary Ennis, from the social media consultancy company NSDesign.

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