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Cyber-bully laws need to be workable

Justice Spokesperson
Communications and Information Spokesperson

Cyber-bully laws need to be workable

The Government's latest efforts to address cyber-bullying are welcome, but hardly fit with its slash and burn approach to the justice sector, Labour says.

Justice Minister Judith Collins announced the Government will introduce a new law to deal with bullying in on-line forums, including setting up a new agency and “allowing” complaints to go to court.

"While it is good to see Ms Collins moving to update laws that were written prior to the development of social media, any new legislation must strike the correct balance between penalising bullies and protecting freedom of expression,” Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said.

“I would be concerned if this legislation was to make something illegal on the internet that wouldn’t be illegal if it was published in another form.

“While cyber-bullying as a method of bullying is unique – no other form of harassment is so easy to create and distribute - legislation should be consistent between the physical and cyber worlds. Preventing bullying in both cases is not just about legislation, but also education and awareness.”

Labour’s Justice spokesperson Andrew Little said the Government’s justice reforms were already impacting on district courts, with some forced to close and others having to pick up case back-logs.

“In view of all the other cost-cutting measures already happening in the justice sector, you do have to wonder how realistic it is that people will be able to take serious cyber-bullying complaints to court.

"Ms Collins has a track record of appearing to make significant change, but closer inspection usually reveals that it is window-dressing. Most recently she failed to fully consider all the implications around planned changes to Family Court procedures and was forced to back down on them.

"Cyber-bullying is an important issue. Let’s hope Ms Collins is not misleading people about the actual nature and extent of these planned changes,” Andrew Little said.

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