If someone reported someone else for sending ‘abusive messages’ to them under the Mal comms act.

Would unsolicited pictures of certain body parts be classed as abusive?

The act is ‘send communication/ article of indecent/ offensive nature’.


It depends on the motives of the sender, among other things.

Section 1(1) of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 states:

(1) Any person who sends to another person—


(b) any article or electronic communication which is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature,

is guilty of an offence if his purpose, or one of his purposes, in sending it is that it should, so far as falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above, cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom he intends that it or its contents or nature should be communicated.

If there is no intent to cause distress or anxiety, the offence is not made out and no crime has been committed. Note that the image(s) only need to be "indecent" or "grossly offensive", they do not need to be "abusive" in any way.

What is "indecent" or "grossly offensive" will be a matter for the jury to decide using common sense. Obviously, if the sender is distributing pornographic images, that will likely to be "indecent". Likewise with, for example, images that make fun of the Holocaust would probably be deemed "grossly offensive".

In contrast, an ordinary image of a hand or something would likely not meet the definition of "indecent" or "grossly offensive".

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  • Would an indecent photo be classed as abusive though? – Chardonay123 Jul 19 at 18:07
  • Probably not, but "abusive" isn't relevant to the offence you've asked about — the image doesn't need to be "abusive", it just needs to be "indecent" or "grossly offensive". – Matthew Jul 19 at 18:12
  • I know, I probably didn’t word it right, what I was saying is..... if someone reported abusive messages, would abusive be classed as ‘pornographic’ photos, or would abusive be more like abusive words directed at them, which would class them as offensive? – Chardonay123 Jul 19 at 18:25
  • Ah, okay. Abusive would more likely be abusive words which would then likely be held to be offensive. – Matthew Jul 19 at 18:28
  • Ah right, thank you. From what I’m lead to believe, they have to be ‘grossly’ offensive don’t they? So what kind of abusive messages would constitute ‘grossly’? – Chardonay123 Jul 19 at 18:33

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