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Making the internet safer for all with the introduction of a new law to protect vulnerable people

By David Porter

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A new offence which makes it a crime to encourage or assist another person to self-harm has now come into effect.

The offence can be committed online, in correspondence or publications, or in-person and applies regardless of whether an individual goes on to injure themselves or not. Anyone found guilty of this crime can face up to five years in prison.

It is hoped it will act as a deterrent to anyone who sets out to deliberately encourage others to self-harm and will create a safer online environment, particularly for people who may be in distress and looking for help on the internet.

Marie Todd
Marie Todd

Mental Wellbeing Minister Maree Todd said: “We welcome this new offence which criminalises people who encourage or assist another person to serious self-harm.

"It will help to 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.”

Samaritans Scotland Executive Director Neil Mathers said: “Samaritans Scotland welcomes new legislation to take action against those who encourage or assist another person to engage in serious self-harm.

“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 and 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.”

The offence under the Online Safety Act (2023) was extended to Scotland through a Legislative Consent Motion agreed in the Scottish Parliament on June 29, 2023.

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