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Types of civil offences

Like criminal law, there are many bases in law from which a civil action could be taken. We will explore three – tort, fraud and employment law.
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Like criminal law, there are many bases in law from which a civil action could be taken. We will explore three – tort, fraud and employment law.

Tort law

Tort law is the body of rules relating to actions or inaction (torts) that cause a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tort. The main torts related to online abuse include harassment, defamation, privacy violations, and copyright infringement. In the context of sports, these harms can potentially lead to reduced participation in sports, loss of income including sponsorships and endorsements, and negatively impacting an athlete’s focus and performance in their sport.

Fraud law

Fraud law relates to deceptive practices, misrepresentation, and dishonesty in various transactions and interactions. It includes a wide range of acts including concealment and inducement to enter into contracts under false pretences. Fraud law also provides mechanisms for restitution, compensation, and punitive measures against perpetrators of fraud.

In the context of sports and online abuse, fraud law could serve as the basis for a civil action, particularly when the abuse involves deceptive practices, false representations, or financial harm. For example, this could materialise where an individual impersonates a professional athlete online such as soliciting funds or selling fake merchandise or executing commercial transactions and the victimised athlete may pursue a civil action based on fraud. In both scenarios, the imposter’s actions are designed to deceive and defraud unsuspecting fans, consumers, or suppliers. This may amount to fraudulent misrepresentation or inducement to enter into transactions under false pretences. Fraud law provides a legal framework for addressing such misconduct, holding perpetrators accountable, and seeking remedies for the victims’ losses and damages.

Employment law

Employment law governs the relationship between employers and employees, setting the legal framework for employment contracts, workplace rights, duties, and obligations. It covers a wide range of issues from employment contracts, discrimination, workplace safety, wage disputes, to termination of employment. Employment law could form the basis of a civil action in cases of online abuse in sports, particularly when the abuse stems from an employment context or affects an employment relationship. Consider these two scenarios:

  • Civil Action Against an Employee: If an employee engages in online abuse as part of their job, the victim could potentially take civil action against the employee for torts like defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or privacy violations. This may occur, for example, where a journalist hacks an athlete’s phone or e-mail account and then reveals details from these acts. In this scenario, the employer might also be held vicariously liable for the employee’s actions if the abuse was committed in the course of employment.
  • Employee Suing Their Employer: An employee, such as a sports organisation official who suffers online abuse from fans, might have grounds to sue their employer under employment law if the employer failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the abuse or did not adequately address the abuse after it occurred. This could be framed as a failure to provide a safe working environment, or as constructive dismissal if the abuse is severe enough to make the employee feel they have no choice but to resign.
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Online Abuse in Sport

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