Online harassment and cyberstalking: a case study



harassment, stalking, hate crimes, hostility, cybercrime, Hostigamiento, acoso, delitos de odio, hostilidad, ciberdelito


The evidence from some studies conducted until now reflects that the offenders´ conscious anger and hostility toward the victim is the prevalent motivation behind the unwanted pattern of conduct that alarms and causes distress to another individual. From a legal-criminal perspective, even if a context-sensitive approach is still necessary, this could well amount to harassment or stalking, on a case-by-case basis. Intriguingly, hostility has always been the core term operating in hate crime legislation in England & Wales. Apart from what looks like a coincidence, how does the unhealthy and long-term fixation pattern with an individual intersect with hate crimes? How is the workability of all the above in the virtual environment? We will use R v Joshua Bonehill-Paine (2016), a racially aggravated online harassment case, as a vehicle to illustrate some concerns and broader thematic points of interest.

Según reflejan algunos estudios realizados hasta la fecha, la ira consciente y hostilidad de los agresores hacia la víctima sería la motivación predominante detrás del patrón de conducta no deseada que alarma y causa angustia a otro individuo. Desde una perspectiva jurídico-penal, aunque siga siendo imprescindible realizar una aproximación sensible al contexto, esto bien podría equivaler a hostigamiento (harassment) o acoso (stalking), en función del caso. Curiosamente, la hostilidad siempre ha sido el término central que opera en la legislación sobre delitos de odio en Inglaterra y Gales. Al margen de lo que parece más bien una coincidencia, ¿cómo relacionar el patrón de fijación enfermiza a largo plazo por un individuo con los delitos de odio? ¿Cómo es la operatividad de todo lo anterior en el entorno virtual? Utilizaremos R v Joshua Bonehill-Paine (2016), un caso de hostigamiento online agravado por cuestiones raciales, como vehículo para ilustrar algunas preocupaciones y puntos temáticos de interés más amplios.

Author Biography

Iñigo Gordon Benito, UNESCO Chair for Human Rights and Public Authorities, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

Iñigo GORDON BENITO is a Lecturer in Criminal law and a member of the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights and Public Authorities of the University of the Basque Country ( His research activity is focused on hate crimes, hate speech and online identity theft. In November 2021, he defended his doctoral thesis entitled «Hate crimes and cyberhate in the Spanish Criminal Code. Special attention devoted to the generic aggravating circumstance of Article 22.4 and the aggravated subtype of Article 510.3». He is currently part of the Hate Crime Research Group working team, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, which runs from 1 September 2021 to 1 September 2025 (Title of the Project: Hate crimes in Spain: pending challenges; Reference: I+D+I PID2020-115320GB-100). In 2018 he carried out a research stay at Oxford Brookes University (UK). In April 2021, he carried out a new research stay at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (Germany). He has been certified as an Assistant Lecturer/Professor in May 2022. He is a hired postdoctoral researcher as of 26 June 2022.


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How to Cite

Gordon Benito, I. (2023) “Online harassment and cyberstalking: a case study”, Sortuz: Oñati Journal of Emergent Socio-Legal Studies, 13(2), pp. 242–257. Available at: (Accessed: 11 December 2023).