Malicious Communications Act 1988

The Malicious Communications Act 1988 (MCA) is a British Act of Parliament that makes it illegal in England and Wales to "send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety". It also applies to electronic communications.

Malicious Communications Act
Long titleAn Act to make provision for the punishment of persons who send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety.
Citation1988 c.37
Territorial extentEngland, Wales, Northern Ireland (Section 2 only.)
Royal assent29 July 1988
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

Scope of application

The original purpose of the MCA was to prevent the sending of printed matter, but the scope of the act has been extended to cover electronic communications. The MCA can be used to charge people for comments made via social networking sites that are “racially motivated” or "religiously motivated."[1]


The MCA has been criticised for its misuse as a means to censor free speech. In 2012 an individual was arrested under the Act for saying that Olympic diver Tom Daley let his late father down by not winning a medal at the London Olympics.[2]

Highlighted cases

The MCA was successfully used against Internet troll Sean Duffy who harassed Natasha MacBryde and her family after her death. In the case of DPP v Connolly, the MCA was used to prosecute an anti-abortion campaigner who sent obscene images of fetuses to pharmacists who sold the contraceptive pill.[3][4]

See also


  1. Awan, I. (2014). Islamophobia and Twitter: A Typology of Online Hate Against Muslims on Social Media. Policy & Internet, 6(2), 133-150.
  2. Gillespie, A. A. (2012). Twitter, Jokes and the Law. The Journal of Criminal Law, 76(5), 364-369.
  3. Keane, M., & Long, J. (2011). Health and homelessness: the Simon snapshot study. Drugnet Ireland, 9-10.
  4. Heffernan, L. (2011). Police accountability and the Irish law of evidence. Crime, law and social change, 55(2-3), 185-197.
  • Full text of Malicious Communications Act 1988 (c. 27) Text of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from
  • Man jailed over tsunami e-mails
  • Quinn, Ben (11 November 2012). "Kent man arrested after picture of burning poppy posted on internet". The Guardian.
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