Complaint to police over cyclists threat

BY GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2010

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Police are investigating a complaint against a Christchurch businessman who made online threats against cyclists.

But one cyber-law lecturer believes Richard Freeman has not broken the law because he did not threaten individuals.

Freeman could not be reached yesterday, and his wife said he was not interested in talking to reporters.

An Aucklander lodged a formal complaint after reading yesterday's front-page story in The Press.

The man, who is not a cyclist and did not want to be named, said police should prosecute Freeman for threatening to commit grievous bodily harm or threatening to frighten, intimidate or injure.

Freeman claimed he had put two cyclists "into the curb" with his Hummer and would "nail" cyclists.

The complainant said Freeman should face the courts for his online attacks. "You can't have people making threatening comments like that."

Internet law lecturer Jonathon Penney, of Victoria University, said that "while he [Freeman] has anger-management problems, he probably has no legal problems".

Freeman was using an online forum to publish offensive comments designed to provoke a strong response.

That may not be acceptable to many people, but Penney said Freeman's actions were protected by the Bill of Rights.

"You could argue he is very close to breaching criminal statutes, but I don't think he has crossed the line."

Police said yesterday they may use the case to push for a law change stopping online threats.

Canterbury road policing manager Inspector Al Stewart said it may be a good chance to examine the law and "see where we stand in relation to threats made in blogs". He was waiting for a police file to arrive in Christchurch before talking to the complainant.

Freeman was not at his Sign of the Takahe restaurant when The Press visited yesterday. A staff member said she was not allowed to say where he was.

Freeman's black Hummer was parked in his driveway but his wife, Priscilla, said he was not home.

"He's out and about and probably won't be taking any calls," she said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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