Crusher’s law to curb boy racers shows us the way – cyber bullies’ IT gear should be trashed

Go, Crusher, was Alf’s reaction to news that Judith Collins is preparing to get tough with cyberbullies.

But she could get much tougher. For now she is talking only about prosecuting the bullies if their actions result in the suicide of their victims.

Why should victims have to go to that extreme before their tormentors are punished?

But it’s a step in the right direction.

Ms Collins aired her thinking when she appeared before the Justice and Electoral Law Committee yesterday.

The Law Commission is considering how to tackle cyberbullying.

While the Government was waiting for its final recommendations, she said, she believed there should be a specific offence of inciting suicide.

As the NZ Herald reminds us in a report today, that was one of the options the Law Commission included in its issues paper on the matter.

The Government has asked it to quicken the pace with its work.

Ms Collins referred to the case of Rotorua teenager Hayley-Ann Fenton, who committed suicide in 2009 after threatening text messages from Elina Tuimalu, the wife of a man Hayley-Ann had been involved with.

Elina was given a nine-month suspended sentence for intimidating Hayley-Ann and earlier this year, Coroner Wallace Bain called for law changes to cover cyberbullying in his findings on Hayley-Ann’s death.

In some ways this suggests Crusher is just trying to burnish her image as a Minister who is tough on crime.

The bully was caught and punished (but not seriously enough in Alf’s view) under laws already on our books.

Crusher had a rejoinder.

Ms Collins said although Tuimalu was prosecuted, sometimes it was important to have specific offences rather than use the more general provisions of the Crimes Act.

She will be considering the Law Commission’s report before making any decisions and expects there to be different levels of enforcement depending on the scale of bullying.

“But if someone is inciting suicide, that is clearly something, in my view, that would end up in the Crimes Act,” Ms Collins said.

That’s where Alf had a grumble.

She seemed to be confining her concerns to the incitement of suicide.

“I think it’s about time we took this seriously. We are talking about kids who are suiciding on this, and we, I think over the years we’ve gone through phases of not talking about suicide.

“I think we are now wanting to talk about it, and how awful it is – their entire families, all their friends are all devastated by this – this is intergenerational damage that occurs.”

She went on to say that before the internet age, there were options to deal with bullying by changing schools or expelling bullies.

The technology now meant it was almost impossible for victims to escape.

She didn’t mention the nature of the penalties she is considering.

But Alf would start by seizing a bully’s cell-phone, computer and all other equipment capable of being used to torment a victim.

He wouldn’t apply a three-strike policy on this one.

First offence, and the gear is taken to the crusher.

But let’s not muck around.

It’s a long time ago that Crusher pushed through the law to crush the cars of boy racers.

Only yesterday did Police Minister Anne Tolley press the button to put the first car through the crusher under that law.

TV3 reported on it (here) last night.

After a four-year wait since the new law was introduced by then police minister Judith Collins, which earned her the nickname “Crusher”, Ms Tolley on Thursday in Lower Hutt pushed the button to compact the law’s first victim.

She said it would send a strong message to boy racers and would be upsetting for them to have their cars destroyed.

Some namby-pamby criminologist reckons it’s “vindictive, malicious, petty and an undignified way of dealing with the problem” and said it was “ministerial grandstanding” and using it to look as if the Government was getting tough on crime.

But the statistics look pretty good to Alf.

The law targeting illegal street racing is credited with resulting in a nearly 30 percent reduction in offences between 2009 and 2011.

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