Law Cracks Down On Teen Cyber Bullies
More and more people, especially teens, are seeking seek legal advice over being called in for questioning by police over cyber bullying. The law is cracking down on the growing problem of bullying through social media as recognition grows the consequences for victims can be just as devastating as in-your-face bullying.
As many as fifty children a year are reported to be seeking legal advice through hotlines set up by Legal Aid over cyber bullying – and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s important not to underestimate the severity of the problem of cyber bullying. It can be relentless, pursuing victims outside school or workplace into their home, continuing over weekends and holidays, chasing them even if they move to escape. It is cowardly, cruel, vindictive and amounts to mental torture. It’s good news that police are pursuing the perpetrators.
Mostly police are alerted when parents discover abusive and bullying messages sent to their child. Cyber bullies should be aware what they are doing is against the law and they can face court action. Legal action against cyber bullies could start with apprehended violence orders placed against them or an official police caution. Cyber bullies could be diverted to a youth justice conference that brings them face to face with their victim to show the impact of what they have done.
Under federal law using a carriage service such as a phone or the Internet in a menacing way carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment. This includes making threats, harassing, intimidating, stalking, hacking, defaming or encouraging someone to commit suicide. Threatening to kill somebody carries a maximum penalty of ten years in jail. Encouraging someone else to threaten or intimidate can end in six months jail.
It’s also a crime to publish untrue information about someone with the intention of causing them serious harm. It can be costly. A man was recently found guilty in the Supreme Court of NSW using his own website to publish untrue allegations of corruption and bribery against a local councillor. He was ordered by the court to pay $80,000 in damages.
There has been a lot of publicity recently about emails sent by prominent people to others that became extremely embarrassing when they appeared in the media. It is a crime to log into a person’s online accounts without permission, and there is a maximum penalty of two years in jail. That’s why the media say they didn’t hack into their accounts but were slipped the emails by a third person. It will be an interesting test of privacy laws if this comes to the courts.