Bill Potts Comments To The Gold Coast Bulletin Regarding Cyber-bullying

Lawyers Support “Troll” Ban

Lawyers have backed Southport High School’s move to suspend students who abuse and bully classmates on social networking sites.

Prominent Queensland lawyer Bill Potts, director of Potts Lawyers, said there were clear limitation to the “freedom of speech” argument.

“Comment in this situation can turn into bullying and targeting of an individual,” Mr Potts said.

“The school has a right to step in as part of the school’s code of behaviour that they will not tolerate this kind of abuse.

“There is a difference between expressing an opinion and the abuse of an individual.”

Mr Potts said it was integral that the schools work to protect students from all forms of bullying and harassment – physically or electronically.

“It is a matter of importance to the school community to stop this abuse – pure and simple,” he said.

“What may be intended as a joke often descends into a cruel, name-calling exercise.

“All parents want to do is make sure their kids are safe and protect them from the mean girls and the mean boys whose cruel taints can be very damaging.

“The school act in the role of protector and the role of educator and they must stand between children and bullies.”

Sydney lawyer Greg Walsh recently said Australian laws were inadequate for prosecuting perpetrators of online offences such as cyber bullying.

“In my practical experience, I don’t think the laws are adequate,” he said.

Mr Walsh has represented families affected by cyber bullying and trolling and has called for tougher laws to crack down on trolls, saying online anonymity should not be allowed.

“I’ve been in cases where, tragically, young boys and girls have been trolled in the most despicable way – thay’ve taken their own lives,” he says.

“We need a greater degree of resources and commitment into detecting these crimes.

“We’ve really got to have a very important review of the laws in Australia.”

Click here to read the Gold Coast Bulletin article.