Cyberbullying is a criminal offence in every state and territory in Australia.
While some states and territories have a specific cyberbullying law, others rely on their stalking legislation because, of course, cyberbullying, like stalking, is a course of conduct conducted electronically.
On top of that, we have Commonwealth law. Every person in Australia has to obey not only their state laws, but Commonwealth law as well. And the main offence under Commonwealth legislation for cyber cyberbullying is use a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.
This is a coverall offence that covers a variety of online behaviours, but it certainly can be used in lieu of any state legislation. You don’t need federal police to use Commonwealth laws. All state law enforcement agencies can use Commonwealth law. It’s just that federal police can’t use state law. So often you will find that an offender is charged under both state and Commonwealth legislation.
This was never the intention of the law, again, both state law and Commonwealth law. If you are convicted of making, possessing or transmitting child abuse material, you become a registered sex offender. That’s mandatory. And that is a very harsh penalty for a teenager that may have consensually sent a nude photo to another teenager.
Again, there is not consistency around Australia. In Victoria, we lead the way. We amended the law several years ago, so in certain situations, the consensual sharing of an intimate image is not a crime when it relates to a young people.
There must be no threat, fear, coercion on sharing or threat to on share the image. There must be no more than two years age difference between the people involved.
There must be no adult involved. So you can’t have an 18 and a 16 year old. And there must be no other criminal act depicted in the photo. If those four things are present and this is occurring in Victoria and Victoria Police are involved, then the young person can be proceeded with through an education process rather than the criminal justice system. We are the only state in Australia to have such an amendment.
In Queensland, the consensual sharing of nude images is a crime, although police have stated that they will err on the side of not charging a young person for the consensual sharing, but look offence particularly when the image has been coerced or shared without consent.
Western Australia is similar. And in New South Wales, they brought in an amendment to the law that if in the belief of a reasonable person the action was acceptable, the charges might not be laid. This one’s a little bit iffy because it does rely on someone’s interpretation and opinion.
The best piece of advice I can give young people is to be very careful that once you’ve shared these images, you’ve lost control of them.
But never, ever be afraid to speak up and tell someone if this is happening to you, because the sooner someone becomes involved in helping, the better the outcome for you.
If we look at stalking and domestic violence, which is another very serious crime, every state and territory has laws for that. And I mentioned in my previous video about sending nude photos about sextortion, the extortion of someone with a sexual motive that, is also a criminal offense as is image based abuse, particularly when it involves an adult where these images are shared and posted on the Internet without consent.
Whilst going to the police may not be your first port of call please be assured that the laws are there to protect you and no one should have to be confronted with, nor should they have to tolerate any form of online abuse.
So please speak up.
To young people watching, there is nothing so bad that you can’t find an adult and let them know what has happened, and there is always someone that will help you.