New years are often used as excuse for a new start - and here in Echo Towers we're no different.

Comments on Daily Echo stories are a matter of constant debate in the Echo offices, but a recent spate of complaints about repeat offenders and comments on certain themes has caused more discussion than usual.

So we’re starting the new year with a new approach – and we are asking you to abide by the following house rules in addition to our existing terms and conditions.

There are only two, and they are:

1. No belligerence, aggression, or referencing another user in a perjorative or derogatory way – that includes comments that are personally abusive about an Echo member of staff or the subject or a story

2. No racism, homophobia, misogyny, sexism or any other form of hate speech, even if it’s intended to be “only a joke”

Comments which breach these rules will be suspended if they are reported to us. Users whose comments are repeatedly removed will have their accounts suspended.

You may also find some stories that might previously have had comments allowed do not, or that comments are only open during certain times.

As regular readers know, we are not a moderated site. We rely on you to report comments and users that are offensive, so we need you to help by click “report this comment” on anything you feel breaches these guidelines - or the existing terms and conditions. Decisions about whether a comment should be removed will be made by the web team –although we know you won’t all agree with every decision we make.

We hope that adding these guidelines will help to make our comments facility a friendlier, more informed place.