The government will table an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill on Thursday that will, if successful, ban hate emails and hate text messages.
Home secretary Jack Straw intends to make it a criminal offence to send hate mail by electronic means, in the same way as it is illegal to send threats in a traditional letter. Those found guilty could be sentenced to six months imprisonment or fined £5,000.
The Criminal Justice and Police Bill is currently going through parliament and Thursday's changes are part of a package of regulations designed to protect scientists from animal rights extremists, though the regulations will apply to all situations.
In a statement released on Wednesday Straw said the government is not prepared to tolerate the criminal actions of a small number of extremists using violence and intimidation.
"These new measures are designed to help prevent two tactics often used by these individuals -- protesting outside employees' and directors' homes and sending intimidating mail. We want to ensure that all types of threatening messages are covered -- including those sent by text messaging and email. Tougher penalties for sending hate mail will be an added deterrent," said Straw.
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