Coroner backs cyber-bullying law changes
Mon, 07 May 2012 9:04a.m.
Proposed law changes targeting cyber-bullying have the backing of the chief coroner, who says bullying by text messaging or on social media sites is contributing to New Zealand's high rate of youth suicide.
Judge Neil MacLean says the Law Commission's recent proposals to create new offences of incitement to suicide, maliciously impersonating another person, and publishing intimate photos without consent all "deserve the attention of the legislature".
He says cyber-bullying is "often a background factor" in suicides before coroners.
"We know it's certainly a risk factor for suicide, and we know that adolescents often talk about interpersonal problems when investigators are looking into not necessarily completed suicides but self-harm."
Judge MacLean is also backing the Law Commission's recommended amendments to the Harassment, Telecommunications and Human Rights Acts to make it clear they covered harassment over the internet.
"I think they are simple, practical steps that could help," Judge MacLean told the New Zealand Herald.
New Zealand has the world's highest suicide rate of young males aged 15 to 24 and third-highest rate for females.
New Zealand also has the second-highest overall death rate of young people aged 10 to 24, which takes into account a high road toll as well as suicide.
Judge MacLean has made several calls for more public discussion of the reasons for New Zealand's high youth suicide rate.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354.
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