There's a lot to like in the Law Commission's report on cyber-bullying.
It does throw up some potential problems but none that couldn't be resolved without causing any great loss of momentum for long-overdue reforms to provide, at last, proper sanctions and remedies.
The thrust of the proposed changes is accountability that stops bullying, in the sense that most of us would understand that word, without going as far as criminalising speech that is simply crass, possibly upsetting, or even the sort of untruth that stops short of being defamatory.
In other words, the new regime would still provide scope for het-up people to vent, or even for some people to troll around being nastily abusive jerks.
What would change is that offenders would, in far greater measure, be held accountable for that malicious sort of harassment that sets out to cause distress.
And the Crimes Act would get some serious fixing; like making it illegal to incite a person to commit suicide or to publish intimate photos and recordings of someone without their consent (even if that person didn't mind the images being recorded at the time).
Careful definitions would be needed for what would be the new criminal offence targeted at the most "grossly offensive" comments on Facebook, Twitter and text.
Then there's the Communications Tribunal suggested by the commission, not to impose criminal sanctions but to give people being unreasonably targeted a place to go where they can get their persecutors to cut it out.
Context would matter a lot in the tribunal's thinking; not just how extravagant the language is, but factors like the age and characteristics of the victim, whether the message was anonymous, whether it was actually true. It's hardly groundbreaking stuff; the UK has had something like this for two decades.
Before things reach the stage of going to the tribunal, the commission has recommended beefing up the role (and presumably the capacity) of NetSafe, the well-performed agent that could reasonably take the role as an entry-level mediator.
No complaints, either, about the proposal to add a legal requirement that schools help combat bullying, including cyber-bullying. Always provided that with any added requirement comes the resourcing to carry it out.
- The Marlborough Express