1 Jun 2012

Coroner calls for law change to punish cyber-bullying

7:34 pm on 1 June 2012

A Coroner wants cyber-bullying criminalised after the death of a Rotorua teenager who had been bullied by text.

Coroner Wallace Bain has not ruled Hayley Ann Fenton's death as a suicide, but says the she died from the toxic effects of drugs she took in July 2009 after receiving the text messages.

Dr Bain says before her death, Miss Fenton received vicious and extraordinarily abusive text messages from the wife of a man she had been having an affair with.

As a result, the teenager took a high number of her father's heart pills and died from their effects.

The Coroner says parents are struggling to come to grips with the explosion of cyber communication and the bullying that can result.

He says serious consideration should be given to a new law to cover text messaging, emailing and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Dr Bain recommends that the new law should particularly crack down on abusive and malicious content, and the vulnerability of the young should be an aggravating factor.

Hayley Ann's mother Lesley Fenton told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Friday she hopes the Government will listen to the Coroner's call to criminalise cyber-bullying.

"Every parent that has lost a child through this type of behaviour will be asking the same question - how is it fair for the bullier themselves to get away with it. How is it fair for us to have to go through it, when they carry on doing what they're doing?"

Ms Fenton says a law covering cyber-bullying would give her family closure.