Gold Coast tragedy + Filming and sharing illegal content on social media

Tragic events at a school on the Gold Coast on Wednesday this week, saw a number of students deliberately take a drug they had purchased online, at school and film the subsequent rush to post to Snapchat.

In the film clips shared with their friends, students included the label and the dosage of the drugs they took , showed the effect and shared it to Snapchat. The effect was not what was expected.

While there are many things to say about the circumstances of this event, there are issues surrounding filming on school grounds, and uploading these to Snapchat and with the current media focus on these Gold Coast students, it is an excellent time to open a discussion with the children in your care about the legalities around filming.

What is filmed and where it is filmed are pertinent issues to raise.

Additional concerns involve the digital footprint created by children, and how this can have a lasting effect on their future prospects.

Digital footprints

The internet is forever. Anonymous apps and disappearing clips are not as secure as they claim to be eg Snapchat.

Everything is able to be screenshot and recorded and potentially used against you at a later date.

Employers already search individuals social media as a resource to determine the character of the individual they are considering hiring.

As time goes on, this type of digital reference check will become very common.

Sexting videos, comments on posts, affiliations with unpleasant groups online, illegal activities – all these things are searchable. You need to be careful and considered in all online activities.

It is vital to understand that nothing done online is private. Correct security settings will assist you, but these do nothing if they are not turned on.

Filming oneself and friends taking drugs illegally imported and banned in the country while at school is not an act that should be widely broadcast.

This could be immensely damaging to the digital footprint of those students involved and may have unexpected legal consequences.

Filming on a device - Consent , privacy , content and distribution

When an individual makes films on a smartphone concerns arise about consent and privacy. This is a very blurry area of the law, which has not yet caught up with social media, and it pays, for now, to be careful and ask if an individual minds you either filming them in the first place and then posting it online.

Short films and videos made using mobile devices is an increasingly common activity.

Issues arise as people can be recorded without their consent and this is illegal in a number of circumstances.

In all states and territories, there is a specific prohibition on using such a device to record a private conversation or activity without the consent of the individuals filmed. A recording is viewed as unauthorised when there is no explicit consent.

This law usually restricts publishing such recorded information, and in this instance, publishing includes uploading to Snapchat.

Consent theoretically ended in the Gold Coast circumstances when the content was sent to a friend. Sharing the image with others once it is received, is viewed as publishing without consent.

So there is a need to stop and think before sharing clips/images onwards

Where are you filming? Private vs Public places

The legal definition of a private place is one where the owner can set rules and restrict entry. This applies to schools and their grounds when they apply policy and procedure to students around mobile device usage and filming.

The legal definition of a public place is one where it is accessible to all. Unless you are filming in an offensive or annoying way – which a can be a crime, you are able to take images and clips without express permission.

As a private place under law schools have policy and procedure documents that almost always include restrictions on device usage. These apply particularly when the device or camera is used :

  • To interfere with the learning environment or the efficient operation of the school

  • In a way that threatens or is likely to threaten another individual

  • To film fights or criminal behaviour ( taking drugs) taking place at the school, during school hours and on the way to / or from the school

  • To Bully, intimidate or otherwise harass (sextortion)

  • In breach of any law ( taking illegal drugs)

In any of the circumstances above, the school discipline and welfare policy will be applied.

Don’t be a hero

Even if you are filming an event to endeavour to help, if that act is illegal or in contravention of school policy you can get in trouble.

You are violating the right to privacy of all those involved in the situation should you film and share an illegal act, and are liable to make matters worse by spreading it across inappropriate channels. So please don’t.

Should your device contain such footage it is best to go to a responsible adult such as the school principal or a carer and allow them to determine if and how they report it to the police.

It is best not to film anything at all, while you are at school on your personal device even if your intentions are good.


Posts from mobile devices often contain sexts, which depending on the ages of the participants, can fall under State and Federal law pertaining to child pornography. These laws are vital for a teen to understand as a child pornography caution should be avoided at all costs.

Filming criminal activity, such as individuals taking drugs is not risk-free in Australia. Complicity (being an accessory to a crime), and incitement (urging someone to do something illegal) are charges that can be attracted depending on the exact circumstance

Complicity is a complex matter in the law, but in essence, if an individual knew a crime is being committed, was going to be committed and still filmed it they themselves are committing a crime in their failure to notify police.

Incitement is a charge that pertains to filming in public when an individual seeks or encourages someone to commit a crime. Determining a location, confirming a time or encouraging others to join in could fall under this offence.

In the case of the Gold Coast students, it is possible, they could be charged with instructing an audience about a crime, promoting a crime or inciting others to commit a similar crime by uploading their drug taking videos to Snapchat.

To summarise very simply

The law surrounding filming on school grounds is complex, and charges will depend on the nature of the content being filmed.

When filming on private property such as a school, consent from others is always necessary and recording an illegal act can make you eligible for prosecution in many circumstances.

If you have any questions please get in touch:

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