Encouraging or assisting an individual to self-harm has been criminalised in Scotland as new legislation takes effect.
Those found guilty of the crime, which can be committed online, in correspondence or publications, or in-person, can be sentenced up to five years in prison.
The law applies regardless of whether the person goes on to harm themselves, in an attempt to make the internet safer.
It was first passed by the UK Government under the Online Safety Act 2023 and extended to the Scottish Parliament through a legislative consent motion in June.
Mental wellbeing minister Maree Todd said she hoped the law will act as a deterrent to anyone who deliberately sets out to encourage people to self-harm.
It could also add a layer of protection for those in distress and seeking help on the internet.
Ms Todd said: “We welcome this new offence which criminalises people who encourage or assist another person to serious self-harm. It will help make the internet a safer place for everyone.
“We believe this new law aligns with our ambitious approach on self-harm, which is laid out in our dedicated self-harm strategy and action plan.
“It demonstrates our ambition to improve support for people who self-harm – a critical part of which is ensuring people are protected from harmful communications.”
Neil Mathers, executive director of Samaritans Scotland, welcomed the legislation.
He added: “It is hugely important to keep people safe online and protected from dangerous content and those wishing to cause harm.
“This legislation should only apply to those who encourage self-harm in a deliberate and malicious way, and aims to deter them from targeting vulnerable people.
“The internet can provide advice, helpful information or supportive networks for people seeking help about self-harm.
“It is crucially important that people can access this support, while being kept safe from dangerous content and those wishing to cause harm.”
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