Cyberbullies could be jailed for up to five years under proposed new laws in honour of Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, who killed herself in January.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian planned to amend the Crimes Act so those who send threatening texts or emails could be slapped with Apprehended Violence Orders.
Bullies who ignored the order and continued to harass their target would be jailed for up to five years, two years longer than the laws currently allow.
The laws were the first to be considered in Australia in response to Dolly, 14, committing suicide after relentless online bullying by classmates.
The former face of Akubra’s parents Tick and Kate Everett said they looked forward to talking further with the NSW Government about the proposed amendments.
‘We want this issue to be taken seriously,’ they said.
‘No one should be abused or feel unsafe online. We need to educate everyone about how important it is to treat each other with respect.
‘Laws about respect can have an impact if they are part of broader community education, standards, and behaviour change.’
‘The changes recognise that online abuse can cause victims significant psychological trauma and have potentially devastating, even tragic consequences,’ Premier Berejiklian told the Daily Telegraph.
She added the new laws would not affect freedom of speech.
The new laws would alter the definition of ‘stalking’ and ‘intimidation’, which carry up to five years jail, to include messages and posts on social media and elsewhere online.
Existing federal laws only carry three-year jail terms for those who ‘menace, harass, or cause offence’ online.
The courts would determine what level of criminality bullies would face and charges would be at the discretion of police.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman added: ‘The activity can make its victims feel scared, powerless and depressed.
‘The government is committed to protecting the community from new threats that arise with advances in technology.’
Dolly’s family in the Northern Territory have taken aim at keyboard warriors following the young girl’s death and vowed her life won’t be a ‘waste’.
‘This week has been an example of how social media should be used, it has also been an example of how it shouldn’t be,’ Mr Everett said earlier this year.
The family have been ardent campaigners against cyberbullying since and said they are not worried about ‘the who or the why’ – they just want to save other families from the same loss.