Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Judges need to know more to help kids:

A leading Judge in the NZ youth justice system says more needs to be known about technology and cyber-bullying.
By Motherpedia
Date: July 15 2013
Editor Rating:

Many judges are not knowledgeable enough about the complex nature of cyber-bullying.

The Principal Judge of the New Zealand Youth Court, His Honour Andrew Becroft, said a generational gap combined with technological advances meant some judges were not well equipped to deal with cyber-bullying cases and needed further education and training to stay on top of the issues.

“Cyber-bullying is outside the experience of many in the justice system, some judges included,’’ Judge Becroft said.

“We have all been teenagers and have all witnessed bullying. But growing up with different technology means many in the justice system have not been directly exposed to the pernicious nature of cyber-bullying and its potential to be spread worldwide.

The father-of-three has dealt with many bullying cases from the Bench, including three where physical fights had been filmed on a mobile phone, adding to the distress of the victim.

“In one case, in a calculated attempt to belittle a 16-year-old girl as payback, an all-girl fight was advertised in advance, then filmed on a phone and published online,” he said.

“The person who uploaded the footage was charged with assault, but at the time there was no provision to deal with the downloading of the film, which was an aggravating feature of the assault.”

“The victim in that case was shattered, belittled, demeaned and became significantly depressed. The emotional consequences of the event outstripped by far the physical effects.’’

Judge Becroft said the judiciary faced unique challenges dealing with cyber-bullying cases.

“Technology is changing all the time and at a rate faster than our legislative capacity has kept up with.”

He said he believed this issue applies to all countries.

“Speaking from my experience as a judge, I have been faced with situations where I have been presiding over cases involving cyber issues, some of which I have been ignorant about and have had to seek expert advice.

“Most of us involved in youth justice are a generation removed from cyber-bullying and that’s one of the challenges we face every day.”

“One thing about being a youth court judge is that things never stand still. This is a qualitatively new challenge for my generation involved in youth justice. We must be trained to deal with the issues. We must do it, it is a non-negotiable part of our ongoing training.’’

Judge Becroft will speak at a symposium to canvass possible changes to Australian laws covering cyber-bullying is being held in Melbourne later this week.The symposium is an initiative of the National Centre Against Bullying, the Australian Federal Police and Victoria University.

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