Remove their power:
Many forms of cyber abuse could be considered to be illegal under state or federal legislation. For example under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (‘the Act’) it is an offence to menace, harass or cause offence, using a ‘carriage service’. It is also an offence under the Act to use a carriage service to make threats to kill or cause serious harm to a person, regardless of whether the person receiving the threat actually fears that the threat would be carried out. These provisions could capture instances of menacing, harassing or offensive conduct and threats carried out using landlines, mobile phones (e.g. MMS, SMS) and the internet, including emails and social media. For example, using a mobile phone to repeatedly send offensive images to someone.
Most Australian states and territories also have laws covering stalking, blackmail, criminal defamation and various unlawful uses of technology. A number of jurisdictions have also passed laws creating offences for the threat to distribute, or distribution, of intimate images (image-based abuse).
For police to determine whether a crime has been committed or if they are able to begin a criminal investigation, evidence is usually required. This might include screenshots, relevant emails and web addresses. You should be prepared to tell your story to the police. To do this, it might be helpful to make a note of relevant dates and times as well as the location of the abusive material. The police might ask you to make a statement summarising your situation and outlining any evidence you have.
Whether or not the police can take action will depend on a number of factors including context, the severity of the matter, how long the event has been occurring, whether there is sufficient evidence to prove who is carrying out the cyber abuse, and where they are located. If police decide they have enough information to begin a criminal investigation and the matter is heard in court, the court will need to be convinced ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that the alleged offender was responsible for the crime committed. This can be quite hard to do, however it has been done successfully before. Whether a matter is successful will depend on the individual case and the strength of the evidence.
Legal advice can help you determine how to address the cyber abuse you may be experiencing.
Depending on the situation, this could include protection orders to keep a person from contacting you or a claim to sue if your reputation has been harmed by another person posting or sharing offensive material about you.
Your local Community Legal Centre or Legal Aid in your state or territory may be able to provide this advice.
You can find out more about community legal centres and locate your local community legal centre by visiting the National Association of Community Legal Centres website.
Depending on where you live, you can contact: