Jurisdiction for web-based offences

In January this year the United Kingdom Court of Appeal decided it had jurisdiction to try three people accused of posting racially inflammatory material on the internet even though the web-server hosting the material was in the USA.

In R v Sheppard [2010] EWCA Crim 65, the accused wrote and edited the material in England; uploaded and controlled it from England, and emailed it to another man in the USA who loaded it on the server there. At [23] the Court listed other factors indicating a substantial measure of the alleged acts occurred within the geographical jurisdiction of England — and that gave the English courts jurisdiction to try the charges.

The Court mentioned three suggested alternative tests for internet-crimes, at [33], but I reckon they’re just different names for the initiatory, terminatory and real-and-substantial-link theories of jurisdiction I wrote about last year in Which jurisdiction?

It seems where criminal statutes don’t specify jursidictional tests, courts are more prepared to step in and decide that they will try cases where it would be impractical to suggest they should be held elsewhere. This growing confidence of courts to deal with internet-based crime is not all that surprising, given the similar forum conveniens (most convenient forum) test has applied in civil disputes for years.

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