Adequacy of Existing Offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory laws to c


We have condensed the Senate committee report into the Adequacy of Existing Offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory laws to capture cyberbullying into an easy to read two-part blog This is Part One.

Released in March 2018 was the Senate committee report into the Adequacy of Existing Offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and of state and territory laws to capture cyberbullying. Given an initial two-month period to reach a conclusion, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee rapidly came to a realisation that the complexity of the issue necessitated more time and research, resulting in an extension to March 2018. I was asked to be a part of “The Roundtable” on ABC’s Radio National hosted by Hugh Riminton to discuss the topic – link to the interview here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/roundtable/9645580

The report shows bullying is endemic in Australia. That cyberbullying goes hand in hand with face-to face bullying for children. That it is not contained to the schoolyard. That our police are not familiar with Commonwealth legislation available for prosecutions. That this is a social and public health issue. And sadly, that any progress will be held up by the ongoing problem of how to define cyberbullying – something the government has been toying with for over seven years. While the results are disappointing and essentially lead to no immediate action, the content of the report included some valuable information about cyberbullying, the current law and clarifies the epidemic Australia is slowly beginning to acknowledge.

Submission to the committee came from a wide range of parties extending from the eSafety office, state and territory police and representatives, the attorney general, law firms, foundations, journalists, mental health groups and the Australian human rights commission. Examples of legislation in other nations were considered, and whether these could be adapted to Australia. Much of the value in the report came from the submissions, rather than the outcome. And showed there are a wide range of opinions on how to address this matter as whole.

The report and its results are of interest, taking into clear account where Australia is at in developing effective legal processes to prosecute cyberbullies.

The report the Inquiry delivered is lengthy, but some highlights taken from it included the following.

The recommendations as specified are:

Recommendation 1

5.4 The committee recommends that the Australian Government consult state and territory governments, non-government organisations, and other relevant stakeholders, to develop and publicise a clear definition of cyberbullying that recognises the breadth and complexity of the issue.

Recommendation 2

5.7 The committee recommends that Australian governments approach cyberbullying primarily as a social and public health issue. With this in mind, the committee recommends that Australian governments consider how they can further improve the quality and reach of preventative and early intervention measures, including education initiatives, both by government and non-government organisations, to reduce the incidence of cyberbullying among children and adults.

Recommendation 3

5.12 The committee recommends that the Senate not legislate to increase penalties for cyberbullying offences committed by minors beyond the provisions already in place.

Recommendation 4

5.13 Noting the serious harms that cyberbullying can cause, the committee recommends that Australian governments ensure that:

• _the general public has a clear awareness and understanding of how existing criminal offences can be applied to cyberbullying behaviours;

• _law enforcement authorities appropriately investigate and prosecute serious cyberbullying complaints under either state or Commonwealth legislation, coordinate their investigations across jurisdictions where appropriate, and make the process clear for victims of cyberbullying, and

• _consistency exists between state, territory and federal laws in relation to cyberbullying.

Recommendation 5

5.15 The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider increasing the maximum penalty for using a carriage service to menace, harass, or cause offence under section 474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 from three years' imprisonment to five years' imprisonment.

Recommendation 6

5.22 The committee recommends that the Australian Government:

• _ensure that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is adequately resourced to fulfil all its functions, taking into account the volume of complaints it considers;

• _promote to the public the role of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, including the cyberbullying complaints scheme;

• _consider improv