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Thu, 07 Feb 2008

Malicious Telephone Calls

Receiving nuisance telephone calls? Don't know what to do? Feeling victimised? What's the law? Here is what you can do to pin down the pest?

Malicious communication is a form of harassment, whether it involves the telephone, post, fax or text messaging.

Here we concentrate on the most common form of harassment - telephone calls. This includes both landline and mobiles. We want you to feel safe and secure in your own home. Abusive, annoying, harassing, obscene or threatening telephone calls are an invasion of your privacy.

What constitutes a malicious telephone call?

A malicious telephone call can be: - Random calls by pranksters - Calls at hours when you are sleeping - Calls where the caller says nothing, is obscene or is threatening to you, your family or your property

Why would someone want to make a malicious call?

Malicious calls may be made by a small group of people who think it is funny or smart to make such obscene calls, or by callers who intend to upset you for revenge, anger or humour.

Who can help me?

All telephone companies have different procedures for handling malicious calls.

In the first instance, you should contact your local helpdesk if you have one and they will refer the matter to us if appropriate. If you do not have a helpdesk at your university that deals with Freewire issues, please contact the Freewire Support team.

If you are a victim, how can you tackle the problem?

You can help yourself by using some simple techniques and installing some electronic equipment.

1. In the first instance, notify the following:

2. Consider changing your number.

3. Keep a call log - accurately record times and dates of malicious calls. This information can be invaluable in bringing your case to a prompt and successful resolution.

4. For your personal safety and security it is possible to install a device on your phone line. It is our role to provide the call-tracing evidence, which will enable the police to identify the telephone where the calls originate from. The following equipment can be used:

Malicious callers think they can escape detection by using the 141 number withhold facility. We will continue to trace such callers at the request of the police through our technical and legal teams, and offenders still face the prospect of prosecution.

Likewise, callers to the 999 service also have their numbers displayed to emergency operators whether or not they have used the 141 facility. Therefore the emergency services are also able to crack down on prank calls. We can even identify whether you have associated your phone at the time of the call.

Following a successful investigation, the police may forward the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for possible court action. Please do not contact the police directly. Your telephone service provider will be able to advise you.

What else can you do?

What's the law/policy?

Under s1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1998 It is an offence to send an indecent, offensive or threatening letter or other form of electronic communication to another person.

Under s43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 and Section 92 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 A person who makes indecent, offensive or threatening calls to another via the telephone system network is guilty of an offence.

The conviction penalty varies from imprisonment to a maximum fine of up to £5,000.

In some cases (e.g. where the malicious calls form one element of a wider charge such as breach of an injunction, where there have been threats to kill etc) the defendant could be held in contempt of court or charged with grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm under the Offences Against the Person Act.

Harassment Act of 1997 Other legislation that you need to be aware of is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which is aimed at protecting people from harassment and similar conduct.

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