Five Years Prison For Cyber Bullying And Abuse Under New Laws

Internet safety and domestic violence prevention groups have welcomed moves to combat online abuse, with new penalties of up to five years in jail.

Laws around ‘stalking’ and ‘intimidation’ will be changed to explicitly include threats and harassment made online or via text messages, under changes to NSW state law.

“The law in New South Wales hadn’t caught up with this type of activity,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“Those individuals who seek to stalk, intimidate, threaten, abuse anybody through technology as well, can be sentenced to a period of up to five years imprisonment”.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said the changes would make the law more clear-cut for magistrates when making apprehended violence orders.

“We want to make sure that when domestic violence, personal violence victims are before the courts, they have a very clear basis, whether it’s online stalking or intimidation, to get an apprehend violence order,” he said.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Up to 98 percent of victims of domestic and family violence have been subjected to online abuse, according to Domestic Violence NSW. Chief Executive Officer Moo Baulch pointed to recent studies that have found perpetrators of online violence feel as if it’s an ‘easier way’ to inflict abuse.

“It can feel almost inescapable when you’re being stalked, bullied or harassed online," Baulch said.

“This (law change) sends out a really clear message to both victims and survivors that police and the law will support you."

Sonya Ryan of the Carly Ryan Foundation has welcomed the NSW changes as “a good start”.

In 2007 her daughter Carly was murdered by paedophile Gary Newman. The 50 year-old had created an alter ego online, pretending to be an 18-year-old musician.

Cyber bullying is hard to escape. Image : Getty Images

Sonya established the Carly Ryan Foundation to educate children and parents about the potential dangers of the internet, while also lobbying governments for legislative change to prevent crime against young Australians.

“It’s really important for the community to be aware that there are consequences online, just as there are offline," Ryan said.

“If somebody chooses to really bully another person, there has to be a real life consequence for that choice."

In a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the foundation recommended governments introduce civil orders that would prevent abusers from contacting victims online.

“I’m really glad the New South Wales government has taken this recommendation onboard,” Ryan said.

“That gives a person an opportunity to have no contact for a certain amount of time."

“In that time they can reflect on their behavior, maybe they can get a little bit of assistance themselves – because you’ve got to remember that because somebody chooses to bully, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a bad person.”

“Maybe they’re going through something themselves that they’re not dealing with personally and maybe they need some assistance as well”.

If you are a victim  or perpetrator of online abuse, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has a Wellbeing Directory with links to available support.