House rules for blog comments

We’ve established these house rules for your safety, to keep comments on the Sentencing Council’s website a healthy environment for discussion and to ensure that everyone can get the most out of commenting on our website.

These rules will help to protect you and us from legal and editorial risks. These are intended as a guide to how you should behave and post on our website. Breach of the rules will result in the removal of your comments. Repeated breaches will result in the permanent blocking your comments.

We welcome feedback, both positive and negative but please make sure your comments are in line with the house rules. Repeatedly posting personal or offensive comments about individual members of the public, people who work here or members of the Council may be considered harassment. We reserve the right to remove such comments and take action against those responsible.

If your post has been removed or your comments have been blocked and you do not agree that you have broken these rules, please contact us.

Display names

1.    Why has a display name been reset?

We reserve the right to reset display names that:

    • contain website or email addresses;
    • contain contact information in other words phone numbers, postcodes etc;
    • appear to impersonate someone else; or
    • contain swear words or are otherwise objectionable

We reserve the right to fail comments which:

1.    Advertise a product

Advertising or promoting products or websites is not allowed anywhere on our website. This may include links to:

    • personal websites, campaigns or forums;
    • surveys and questionnaires;
    • commercial websites or auction sites that mainly exist to sell products; and
    • details of charity or fundraising events.

Of course, if it’s relevant to the debate, links to articles which other users may find interesting, are welcome.

2.    Risk breaching copyright law

Copyright law exists to stop someone from taking another person’s work and passing it off as their own. It applies to the internet in the same way as it does to TV, books and the press. Breaking copyright law can result in being taken to court.

Please do not post large chunks of text copied from other sources as this may be an infringement of copyright. Short quotes to illustrate a point may be permissible, although this is at our discretion.

If you wish to refer to external sources of information, it’s better to include a link to an appropriate external website. However, make sure that all external links included in comments meet our guide to linking [see below].

3.    Are not in English

Comments which are not in English are not allowed. This is because we have to ensure comments can be checked and to ensure that all readers of the blogs understand the comment.

In addition to this, comments with heavy text speak or unintelligible language such as codes are also not allowed as this may disrupt the natural flow of conversation.

4.    Risk breaking UK law

Contributing material to this website with the intention to commit a crime, break the law, or condone or encourage unlawful activity is prohibited.

In addition we may remove comments which we consider could endanger other users – for example, offering medical and health advice, or encouraging drug or alcohol abuse or self-harm.

5.    Contain potentially defamatory statements

Defamation laws exist to protect individuals or organisations from unwarranted, mistaken or untruthful attacks on their reputation. Posting a defamatory statement on a blog is the same as publishing it in a newspaper or magazine and can result in a court case if a formal complaint is made.

To avoid breaking defamation laws in your comments, please ensure that you verify the information in your comment, especially when presenting negative statements as facts. Also avoid jumping to conclusions, exaggerating or making subtle implications. Remember that adding the word ‘allegedly’ to a statement does not stop it being defamation.

Both you and the Sentencing Council can be held liable if you make a defamatory statement on the Sentencing Council’s website, so we will remove comments where we have insufficient evidence to defend publication of your statement. This means we may err on the side of caution when considering some comments.

6.    Are abusive or disruptive

Abusive or disruptive behaviour is not allowed on the Sentencing Council website. This includes:

    • using swear words (including abbreviations or alternative spellings) or other language likely to offend;
    • harassing, threatening or causing distress or inconvenience to any person or people;
    • flaming: this means posting something that’s angry and mean-spirited;
    • trolling: this means saying deliberately provocative things just to stir up trouble;
    • infringing the rights of, restrict or inhibit anyone else’s use of this website;
    • attempting to impersonate somebody;
    • using multiple accounts to disrupt boards, annoy users, or to avoid moderation;
    • bumping or creating duplicate threads, posting in such a way as to cause technical errors, or any other attempts to disrupt the normal flow of conversation.

Users who seriously or repeatedly demonstrate such behaviour may have their comments moderated or permanently restricted and will not be allowed to return.

7.    Are offensive

Comments that contain offensive content are not allowed on the Sentencing Council website. Material which is racist, sexist, homophobic, discriminatory against those with a disability, sexually explicit, abusive or otherwise objectionable material will be removed and if extreme will result in immediate and permanent restriction of your account.

8.    Are off-topic

Comments that are unrelated to the subject of discussion are considered ‘off-topic’. Discussion of moderation and moderation decisions are off topic unless otherwise stated. To comment, complain or appeal against moderation please contact us.

9.    Contain personal details

Including contact or identification details in comments such as phone numbers, postal or email addresses is not allowed on most services. Please do not reveal any personal information about yourself or others as it might inadvertently put you or someone else at risk.

10.  Constitute contempt of court

Once a suspect is arrested for an offence, or offences, legal restrictions apply. The 1981 Contempt of Court Act makes it a serious criminal offence, once someone’s been arrested, to publish anything which could prejudice their trial. Being arrested doesn’t in itself indicate guilt, so comments posted to the Sentencing Council website which presume a suspect is guilty also risk defaming the suspect.

Please use caution when discussing reports of an arrest or court proceedings. Even linking to archived news stories, blog entries and comments may be unlawful as UK contempt law would usually prohibit any reference to the previous conviction(s) of someone facing new court proceedings. In addition, courts sometimes impose restrictions that prohibit the publication of specific information such as names and addresses of defendants.

11.  Contain spam

Spamming or flooding is not allowed on the Sentencing Council website. Spamming means submitting the same or very similar comment many times across the site. Flooding means re-submitting your contribution to the same blog entry multiple times. Please do not use a signature beneath your comment to promote websites, services, products or campaigns. This will cause your comments to be removed as spam.

12.  Contain unsuitable links

When postings links, please refer to our guide to linking [see below]. For example you should not link to:

    • unlawful, unsuitable or sexually explicit content;
    • websites that require payment to access;
    • foreign language content;
    • websites that initiate a file download or require additional software in order to view them. This includes .pdf and .mp3 files;
    • websites that advertise or promote products.

In some cases the moderator will edit out the link/s leaving the rest of the comment visible on the board. If so the link will be replaced by [Unsuitable/ broken URL removed by moderator].

13.  Break our election and referendum rules

As a public body we are committed to giving visitors the opportunity to engage in high quality debate. It is also important that we are seen to be impartial. As a result, some special house rules are in effect during election and referendum periods.

House rules during an election or referendum

In addition to the existing house rules you must:

    • declare if you are an election candidate or registered referendum campaigner;
    • discuss the issues, not the personalities;
    • avoid sloganeering;
    • avoid campaigning.

Guide to linking to other websites

We are happy for visitors to link to suitable websites but we reserve the right to remove a link if we become aware that:

  • it is broken;
  • it is unsuitable for our audience.

Unsuitable Links

A web page is classed as unsuitable if it contains, or directly links to, material which is:

1.    Offensive

    • page contains pornography and sexually explicit content;
    • page contains text and/or images likely to offend most people;
    • links to hate sites (on grounds of race, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation);
    • links to depictions of gratuitous violence.

2.    Unlawful

    • page condones or encourages unlawful acts;
    • linking breaches copyright law or encourages others to do so (eg: illegal downloads of software etc);
    • linking risks breaching defamation and/or contempt of court;
    • page describes how to hack or cause other technical disruption to online services;
    • page describes how to conduct an unlawful act (e.g. fraud etc);
    • any link containing any form of malware (including but not limited to viruses, worms, spyware etc).

3.    Presents access or safety problems

    • links to pay-to-view or other subscription sites;
    • links to sites which initiate a download;
    • links to sites requiring obscure software;
    • links to 18+ sites (eg: gambling);
    • links to foreign language sites with no English language version;
    • links to sites requiring registration before any content can be viewed.

4.    Lacks value

    • links to solely for-profit products and services (no editorial content);
    • links to pay-to-list directories;
    • links to cascading sites (automatically launching numerous windows).

The fact that a link appears in a user’s comment on the Sentencing Council website does not mean that we in any way endorse the content of that website and is not responsible for its content or actions.

Broken Links

A link is classed as broken if it is:

  • returning a “page not found” or similar error message;
  • leading to a hosting portal’s “page can’t be found” message, or its default homepage;
  • missing images, audio, video or flash files for sites dependent on these elements.

To report a broken or unsuitable link, please contact us.