Should cyber bullying be a jail-able offence?

Should cyber bullying be a jail-able offence?

The mother of a teenage victim of alleged cyber bullying says laws need to change to protect children from online predators.

Elaine Hughes lost her 17 year old son Darren Hughes Gibson to suicide on 23 August 2012.

Ms Hughes believes her son was bullied online due to the colour of his skin.

Following consideration of a substantial file containing 5,500 pages of online messages, the Director of Public Prosecution has directed that no charges will be brought.

Her son Darren was found dead at the Stephenstown Industrial Estate in Balbriggan, Co Dublin on 23 August, 2012.

He had been reported missing by his mother after he failed to return to the family’s former home at New Haven Bay in Balbriggan the previous night.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane set a date for a full hearing into the teen’s death, but Hughes said she wants a review of the DPP’s decision.

Elaine broke down in tears when she was informed of the court of the DPP’s decision not to bring charges.

I am going to speak to Elaine in a couple of minutes but tonight I want to know if you think cyber bullying should be a jailable offence.

We live in such a scary digital age now. I don’t know what it is like growing up as a teenager with such access to the internet and the lack of protection out there for young people.

I was bullied growing up but thankfully, when I went home the bulling didn’t follow me. Kids and teenagers these days have nowhere to turn anymore as the bullying now follows them home, in the form of their phones and laptops.

Some of these teenagers who are bullying people online may grow up to regret it but what in the mean time there is a possibility of them causing serious and irreversible damage.

Some people may argue that these teenagers don’t deserve to be jailed and punished for making a a childish mistake of calling someone names online. Not all bullying cases lead to the tragedy of a suicide but some do – which I personally think is the worrying thing about this and it shows the need for clear way to put a stop to it.

Would the possibility of prosecuting teenagers who engage in online bullying put a stop to it?

The primary statutes protecting individuals are the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. While these laws seem old and outdated, they are designed to both safeguard individuals from abuse and to provide appropriate sanctions to those who are found guilty.

Last year the Labour party put forward a bill to make cyber bullying and revenge porn a crime. The Bill proposes updating the existing definitions of communication and harassment so that acts such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and dissemination of revenge porn can be codified into law.

Under the terms of the Bill anyone who causes another person harm or distress by persistently following, watching, pestering or communicating with or about them will be guilty of harassment and liable for a fine, a prison sentence of up to seven years or both.

Should this be rigorously enforced, even for teenagers?

I want to know what you think tonight –

Should cyber bullying be a jail-able offence?

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