If you or the person you are helping is in immediate danger please contact the police dialling 999

When should you go to the Police?

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Consider these questions

It might help to consider your responses to these questions when considering what has happened/ is happening online

  • Is someone in immediate danger?
  • Has a threat to someone’s life been made?
  • Has someone’s safety been compromised?
  • Is someone being forced to take part in sexual behaviours online?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above we would recommend contacting the police as an emergency. It is always best to contact the police by dialling 999 if you or a person you are helping is in immediate danger.

You can report other non-emergency situations (i.e. those that do not require an immediate police response) by dialling 101.

When does harmful content become criminal content?

It’s not always easy to determine when harmful content becomes criminal in nature. UK laws relating to online safety date back as far as the 1960’s and as such there isn’t always a clear set of criteria to meet when determining whether content is criminal or not.

In addition to this, interpretation of harmful behaviour online is subjective; what may be harmful to one person might not be considered an issue by someone else. This fact alone makes it harder to understand when exactly harmful behaviour crosses the threshold into criminal behaviour.

The eight types of harmful content we accept reports for are not always specific criminal offences in UK law. However, there are criminal laws that can apply in terms of harassment or threatening behaviour. For example should you receive threatening, obscene or repeated messages and fear for your safety, this is against the law and you should contact the police. Context should be taken into consideration and police determine their response on a case by case basis.

Laws about online behaviour

Many UK laws were created before communicating online became popular. Because of this it can be tricky to work out what is and isn’t covered by legislation. You’ll find information about UK laws that are relevant to online criminal behaviour by clicking on the buttons below. This might help you to work out whether you should contact the police:

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