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NSW addresses online abuse with tougher laws

According to a recent report, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Attorney General Mark Speakman have announced that new laws will be preventing people from using modern technology to stalk or intimidate their victims.

People will be protected from serious online abuse with the design of changes. Serious cases range from cyberbullying and trolling as well as stalking and harassment of victims of domestic and personal violence.

The NSW Government will introduce legislation amending the law to make it clear that the definitions of ‘stalking’ and ‘intimidation’ in the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act explicitly includes activities conducted online or via text messages that are designed to instil fear of physical or mental harm.

Moreover, the courts have the power to make Apprehended Violence Orders in response to serious online abuse, which the amendments will confirm.

This will thereby guarantee that perpetrators will stop their abusive online behaviour or risk facing arrest and possible imprisonment.

Under the amendments done by the NSW Government, a maximum five-year prison term awaits people who stalk or intimidate others with the use of modern technology.

Existing Commonwealth laws have a maximum of three years’ jail for the offence.

The change being announced recognises that online abuse can cause victims significant psychological trauma and have potentially devastating, even tragic consequences.

To clarify, these changes are not aimed at policing free speech. They are aimed at preventing abuse.

Some of the examples of the abuse that these amendments aim to tackle include posting threatening or hurtful messages, images or videos online; repeatedly sending unwanted messages online; and sending abusive emails.

Moreover, the reforms are designed to address an emerging trend of offenders threatening and harassing the victims on social media. Modern technology requires modern laws.

These offences can cause the victims to feel scared, powerless and depressed. The NSW Government is committed to protecting domestic violence victims and other members of the community from new threats that arise with advances in technology.

The laws will also apply to juvenile offenders but incarceration would apply “only in the most extreme circumstances”.

The NSW Police Commissioner explained that a “criminal threshold” would still need to apply. Additionally, the changes would give more confidence to come forward with concrete evidence.

Hopefully, the amendments will serve as motivation so that the victims will save as much evidence as they can on their computers and phones.

Also, victims can feel confident coming into police stations now knowing there is legislation to support them just as the police force is there to support them.

It was said that up to 98% of family and domestic violence victims have experienced online abuse. It is a devastating crime and it is something that also follows people into their homes.

It can feel almost inescapable when someone experiences being stalked, bullied, and harassed online.


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