Cyberbullying law holding offenders to account

  • Amy Adams

Legislation passed in 2015 to curb cyber-bullying is effectively weeding out and punishing the worst offenders, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.

“The Harmful Digital Communications Act made it illegal to send messages and post material online that deliberately causes a victim serious emotional distress,” says Ms Adams.

“The law is also protecting those most vulnerable to online abuse by clamping down on bullies who encourage their victims to commit suicide, regardless of whether or not the victim attempts or is successful in taking their life.”

Since coming into force the Act has resulted in:

  • 132 criminal charges filed
  • 77 criminal cases finalised
  • 50 convictions and sentences
  • 4 diversions completed
  • 3 dismissals
  • 1 discharge without conviction

“One of the worst cases we’ve seen involved a man who was jailed for sending half naked photos of his ex-girlfriend to a shared work email address. This shows the law is working well to punish the most serious offenders.”

The Act also established an Approved Agency, Netsafe, and civil court remedies to assess, investigate and deal with complaints about harm caused to individuals by digital communications.

“Since Netsafe began in November 2016, it has received over 600 requests for assistance with harmful digital communications,” says Ms Adams.

“The law tackles cyberbullying head on and simplifies the process for getting harmful communications off the internet quickly and effectively, while still respecting the right to free speech.”