Cyber bullying or cyber harassment behaviour can attract serious criminal charges. If you have been charged with a crime in relation to cyber bullying or harassment, contact George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers Sydney. With over 50 years of experience, our Cyber Bullying Defence Lawyers are experts in defending cyber bullying and harassment charges.
Historically, bullying has been limited to the school playground or generally within school hours. With advancements in technology and young persons now having access to computers and mobile phones and utilizing various forms of social media, bullying and harassment can now be perpetrated online and at any hour of the day. Research has provided that approximately 30 percent of Australian students from years 4 to 9 report being bullied on a frequent basis. Research also shows this number is increasing over time.
There are numerous offences a person may be charged with following allegations of cyber bullying or cyber harassment at both the State and Federal level.
Assaults etc At Schools
Section 60E of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) provides that a person who assaults, stalks, harasses or intimidates any school student or member of staff of a school while the student or member of staff is attending a school, although no actual bodily harm is occasioned, is liable to imprisonment for 5 years.
Under this section, no physical harm is required for a person to be found guilty of committing an offence. If physical harm is caused, a person is liable for up to 12 years imprisonment.
Menace, Harass or Cause Offence
Firstly, where a person menaces, harasses or causes offence, charges may be laid under the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth). Under Section 474.17 it is an offence to use a carriage service in a way that a reasonable person would regard as being menacing, harassing or offensive. A communication may be considered ‘menacing’ if it is likely to cause a recipient to apprehend the possibility of oncoming danger.
‘Harassment’ may be defined as persistent or continuous unwanted actions against another, or to irritate persistently. This may include calling someone repeatedly after it is clear they do not want to receive calls from you, or using other ways to contact a person after being ‘blocked’ on any carriage service including mobile or social media.
‘Offensive behaviour‘ is defined as ‘conduct that has the effect of wounding the feelings, arousing anger, resentment, disgust or outrage in the mind of the reasonable person who may have or could have viewed, or been the object of that conduct’. The conduct however has to be more than hurtful or ill-advised.
Under the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) it is an offence to threaten to kill or cause serious harm to another person where the person making the threat intends for the second person to fear that the threat will be carried out. An offender may be imprisoned for up to 10 years. It is not necessary to prove that the victim actually feared the threat being carried out, only that the offender intended for the victim to fear it would be.
Under Section 13 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 it is an offence in New South Wales to stalk or intimidate another person with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm. Intimidation is defined as conduct amounting to harassment or molestation of the person or approach, including by telephone, text messaging or via the internet, by any means that causes the person to fear for his or her safety. It also includes any conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person, or of violence or damage to any person or property.
Cyber Bullying Defence
Where a person has been charged with ‘menacing’, it must be proved that the alleged victim apprehended the possibility of oncoming danger. There are various ways this charge may be defended. For example, if there is insufficient evidence for the prosecution to prove the alleged victim apprehended the possibility of oncoming danger, the charges may be dropped.
‘Harassment’ also requires sufficient evidence to prove the accused persistently or continuously committed unwanted actions against another. Unless the prosecution can admit sufficient evidence, this charge cannot be proved.
‘Offensive behaviour’ is not simply behavior which might cause minor offence to a person. This charge requires a high degree of offence in accordance with common law. Unless the prosecution can prove the high degree of offence required for this charge, this offence cannot be proved.
Where a person threatens to kill or cause serious harm to another person, the prosecution must prove that the accused intended for the victim to actually fear that the threat will be carried out. If the prosecution cannot prove the accused’s intention for the victim to fear the threat will be carried out, this offence cannot be proved.
Where a person stalks or intimidates another person, the prosecution must prove the accused intended to cause the victim to fear physical or mental harm.
For more information, contact George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be contacted on (02) 9261 8640 during business hours or 0412 423 569 outside of business hours. We may also be contacted via email at [email protected].