2 Jun 2012

Law Commission to report on cyber-bullying

3:21 pm on 2 June 2012

The Law Commission is reviewing submissions on a proposal to criminalise cyber-bullying and expects to report back in a few months.

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 she died from the toxic effects of drugs she took in July 2009 after receiving the text messages.

Dr Bain wants a new law introduced to crack down on abuse via text or online.

Hayley Ann's mother Lesley Fenton has said she hopes the Government will take note of the Coroner's call.

Law Commissioner John Burrows says laws in place, such as those pertaining to intimidation, can cover cyber-bullying. "But the question is whether we need another law which is about causing severe mental harm or emotional distress through electronic communication and that's the thing we're looking at seriously."

Justice Minister Judith Collins says she supports the Coroner's call to criminalise cyber-bullying and that's why she's asked the Law Commission to speed up work on the matter.

Ms Collins says there are quite a few pieces of legislation to bring together and work is needed to get the law right.

She says changes would have to be made to the Telecommunications Act, Harassment Act and most likely the Crimes Act as well.

A spokesperson for internet group Netsafe, Martin Cocker, says the legal system has been trying to bend existing laws, and a new framework is needed to set boundaries for young people who can not be prosecuted under existing law.

The minister expects the commission will report back before September.