‘Dolly’s law’ aims to put trolls behind bars

NEW laws prompted by the tragic death of teenager Dolly Everett will put ­cyberbullies  in  jail for up to five years.

State government amendments unveiled on Saturday mean abusive online trolls and those who send threatening texts or emails would be slapped with Apprehended Violence Orders.

Those who fail to curb their abusive behaviour will face arrest and imprisonment.

The changes will alter the definition of "stalking" and "intimidation" to include online activities designed to instil fear of physical or mental harm, making it easier for perpetrators to be prosecuted.

 

Kate and Tick Everett have fought to raise awareness of the serious nature of cyberbullying after their daughter’s death. Picture: David Caird
Kate and Tick Everett have fought to raise awareness of the serious nature of cyberbullying after their daughter’s death. Picture: David Caird

 

The amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act are in ­response to the death of 14-year-old Northern Territory teenager Amy "Dolly" Everett, who committed suicide this year after a relentless online bullying campaign.

Under existing Commonwealth laws, trolls using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence face a maximum of only three years in ­prison. The NSW offence of stalking or intimidation carries a five-year prison sentence.

The amendments, to be introduced into state parliament in coming weeks, are aimed at protecting people from online abuse ranging from cyber-bullying and trolling, through to stalking and harassment of domestic or personal violence victims.

 

She took her own life in January.
She took her own life in January.

 

Examples of what will be covered by the laws include posting threatening or hurtful messages on ­social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, posting abusive images or videos, repeatedly sending unwanted messages or abusive emails.

However, it will be up to the courts to determine the level of criminality of an individual's online activities, while police will also use their discretion over potential charges.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the changes would not ­impact "free speech".

"The changes recognise that online abuse can cause victims significant psychological trauma and have potentially devastating, even tragic conse­quences," she said.

 

 

Kate and Tick Everett spoke on A Current Affair about their daughter’s ordeal. Picture: Channel 9
Kate and Tick Everett spoke on A Current Affair about their daughter’s ordeal. Picture: Channel 9

 

"The changes are not aimed at policing free speech. They are aimed at preventing abuse."

Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the reforms ­address a trend of harassing victims on social media.

"This activity can make its victims feel scared, powerless and depressed," he said. "The government is committed to protecting the community from new threats that arise with ­advances in technology."

Ms Everett, who was known as the face of Akubra hats, took her own life on January 3, ­resulting in her parents' campaign to raise awareness around cyber-bullying.



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