New Anti-Bullying Bill Introduced to Tasmanian Parliament

Friday 5 April 2019 @ 11.06 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

The Criminal Code Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2019 (the “Bill”) was introduced to Tasmania’s House of Assembly on 21 March 2019 by the Minister for Justice, the Hon Elise Archer.

Background to the Bill

A Draft Bill was released for public consultation between December 2018 and February 2019.  The Government received about 20 submissions to this consultation.

The proposed legislation seeks to expand the crime of stalking and criminalise serious bullying behaviour to address the problem of bullying. If passed, the Bill will implement the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to amend the Criminal Code Act 1924 (the “Criminal Code”) to make serious cyberbullying a criminal offence.

Ms Archer said “the new legislation strikes a balance between protecting Tasmanians from bullying whilst being careful not to unnecessarily bring people, particularly young people, before the courts”.

In her Speech, the Minister commented:

“The Government is determined to do all it can to stop bullying and this Bill will improve legal responses to serious cases of bullying, including cyberbullying, to better protect victims and to hold perpetrators to account … The reforms the Government proposes complement the host of measures we are already undertaking, as well as work being undertaken at a national level, to reduce this scourge on our society.”

Brief Overview of the Amendments

As outlined in the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum (the “EM”), amendments will:

  • amend the Criminal Code by amending section 192 to expand the fault elements and expand on the list of actions capable of constituting a “course of conduct” and change the charge in section 192(1) to “stalking and bullying”;
  • amend the Justices Act 1959 by removing section 192 from the list of offences which can be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court rather than in the Supreme Court if the defendant so elects under section 72(1) of the Justices Act 1959; and
  • makes consequential amendments to both the Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2005 and the Family Violence Act 2004 to align the references to section 192 in these Acts with the Criminal Code.

Comments On The Bill

Ms Archer told The Advocate:

"Social media and other platforms means bullies can have access to their victims 24 hours a day, seven days a week … serious bullying can result in tragic personal consequences for victims, such as long-term mental health impacts, self-harm and psychological damage … The government's reforms include a safeguard which provides that a prosecution must not be commenced without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions."

She also told the paper:

“…the Government is investing $3 million over four years to combat bullying and cyberbullying in all Tasmanian Government schools, and since 2014 we have employed more than 63 support staff to provide more social and emotional support where needed ... Our schools are utilising the Respectful Relationships Education resource, and recently, the Government partnered with Relationships Australia to deliver the Speak Up Stay Chatty program in schools over the next four years.”

While outlining the proposed changes in a Media Release, Ms Archer said:

“…This legislation is just one part of a whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach to tackling bullying, as well as law reform, education, community awareness and restorative justice initiatives have an important role to play in addressing the problem of bullying.”

The proposed amendments outlined in the Bill were also supported by Community Legal Centres Tasmania, who in their submission to Government, noted:

“…We support the Government’s intent to amend the Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tas) and provide for the prosecution of persons who either in person or through electronic forms of communication intend to cause physical or mental harm to others …”

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