Cyberbullying Laws NSW – The New South Wales State Government has announced that current law surrounding cyberbullying will be amended this month to increase protection of people from being bullied or harassed online. This comes in response to increased rates of victims being harassed over social media platforms. The government issued a press release in October stating:
The NSW Government will introduce legislation amending the law to make it clear that the definitions of ‘stalking’ and ‘intimidation’. Explicitly includes activities conducted online or via text messages that are designed to instil fear of physical or mental harm.
Bullying, stalking, intimidating or harassing can amount to serious criminal offences. To be accused of or charged with a criminal offence, including cyberbullying is extremely serious and anyone accused of or charged with such an offence should contact an expert criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers have years of experience in defending persons charged with cyber bullying, stalking and intimidation offences.
In New South Wales, acts, which involve cyber bullying, may amount to an offence under the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (the Act) under Section 13. Under this section, a person is guilty of an offence if they stalk or intimidate another person with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm. It does not matter whether or not the other person actually feared physical or mental harm, only that the offender intended to cause the fear. Also, the offence can be proved if the offender makes an attempt to cause fear of physical or mental harm, meaning it does not matter if they were successful in completing the act, only that an attempt was made.
Intimidation is defined in Section 7 of the Act as:
If a person is found guilty of committing an offence under Section 13 of the Act they will face a maximum of 5 years in prison or 50 penalty units (a monetary fine).
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller provided “Hopefully…the victims will save as much evidence as they can on their computers and phones and they can feel confident coming into police stations knowing there is legislation to support them…” Where a person is charged with an offence under Section 13, it may be easier for the police to prove the facts of the case where the victim has saved messages. Frequently the police will attempt to prove an offence occurred but there is little hard evidence to rely on. Where an alleged victim has saved messages sent from an accused online and these are admitted into evidence, this can mean defending the offence will be more difficult for the accused.
Cyberbullying offences are not limited to state legislation and a person may be charged with cyberbullying under Commonwealth legislation as well. Under the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) it is an offence to menace, harass or cause offence. Section 474.17 makes it an offence to use a carriage service in a way that a reasonable person would regard as being menacing, harassing or offensive. If found guilty of this offence, a person faces up to 3 years in prison. Consistently with the NSW legislation, a communication under this law may be considered ‘menacing’ if it is likely to cause a recipient to apprehend the possibility of oncoming danger.
Under Section 474.15 it is an offence to use a carriage service to make a threat to kill (up to 10 years in prison) or a threat to cause serious harm (up to 7 years in prison). The prosecution are not required to prove that the person receiving the threat actually feared that the threat would be carried out.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence including a bullying offence or cyberbullying offence, it is essential to speak with an expert criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers can advise you on the best steps to take if you have been charged with an offence, as well as defend you in court to ensure the best possible outcome is achieved. It may be possible to have the charges dropped, or have the charges downgraded. In the event that the charges cannot be dropped or downgraded, we can argue for the most lenient sentence possible. This may include having no conviction recorded, entering into a good behaviour bond or obtaining a suspended sentence.
For more information on cyberbullying call 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.