Send a rude email, have News of the World readers attack you in the street

If you’re in the habit of sending lewd or utterly offensive emails and you live in England, you might want to stop: sending emails of a sexual nature can get you on the Sex Offender’s Register, a kind of Yellow Pages for angry mobs.

An order has amended the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 to make it possible for offences which are not primarily sexual in nature to be punishable by a sexual offences prevention order (SOPO).

Improper use of a public communications network is forbidden already by the Communications Act 2003. It defines improper use as sending a message that is “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.

The amendment to the Sexual Offences Act adds that offence to the list of others that qualify for a SOPO. The order does not extend to Scotland.

The Home Office says the new provisions cover such activities as nuisance phone calls, obscene messages, and harrassment emails of a sexual nature.

It’s not clear what kind of content qualifies – your idea of inoffensive might not be the same as a judge’s – but it’s probably best not to email some of the net’s more famously offensive images to Tony Blair.