Communications

Mass. court: Abuse law can apply to online dating.

Massachusetts’ highest court on Wednesday ruled that substantive dating relationships developed and maintained using instant messaging, Skype, emails and other electronic communications are subject to the state’s domestic abuse laws.

The Supreme Judicial Court made the ruling in overturning a restraining order against a British man who was 24 when he developed a relationship with a 16-year-old Massachusetts girl after she visited London in 2011.

The court said Gregory James Compton was not a threat to the girl, in overturning the restraining order the girl’s father had obtained against Compton under the state’s domestic abuse law.Mistreatment stemming from relationships formed online and through other means of electronic communications are not specifically identified in Massachusetts’ domestic abuse law.

In its decision posted online, the court said its ruling “reflects the changing nature of relationships and, specifically, the fact that an increasing number of relationships, including ones involving teenagers, are being conducted electronically.”

Compton used real-time electronic communications to maintain the relationship with the teen after she returned home, professing his love for her, discussing the age of consent for sex and planning a trip to Massachusetts for a “sneaky sleepover” while he was in town. He also talked about having a conversation in his hotel room “with somthing gd in our hands,” an apparent reference to drinking alcohol.

The high court, on its own initiative, took the case from a lower court. Its ruling Wednesday said the domestic abuse law “must be interpreted to protect all who are in a substantive dating relationship from abuse, regardless of whether the relationship was developed or conducted by the use of technology.”

Tags:

Comments are closed.