Harassment via the Internet

October 10, 2018

 

 Harassment via the internet, which includes “cyber bullying” and “cyberstalking,” is a recent phenomenon that has engulfed society with the advent of the internet, media and technology. More and more people, especially younger persons are using social

networking sites. 

 

The term “cyber bullying” can be defined as the use of the internet, cell phones and other electronic devices with the intention of hurting or embarrassing other persons. This includes harassing persons via email, posting embarrassing photos online and ridiculing them on chat rooms. 

 

Harassment via the internet is unlawful and is a crime. It is no laughing matter as the consequences of such an offence under the law are very serious. It is important to recognize that something sent electronically can never be entirely removed. 

 

There are far reaching consequences for persons charged with such an offence. The Offences Against The Person Act Chap 11:08 Section 30A states that “harassment” of a person includes alarming the person or causing the person distress by engaging in a course of conduct such as:- 

 

- making visual recordings of the person;

- making contact with the person whether by gesture, directly or verbally, by

telephone, computer post or in any other way;

- giving offensive material to a person, or leaving it where it will be found by,

given to, or brought to the attention of the person; and

- acting in any other way that could reasonably be expected to alarm or cause

the person distress.

 

The Act states that a person found in conduct which amounts to harassment of

another person is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $2,000

and to imprisonment for 6 months. The Act further states that persons accused of

conduct amounting to an offence under Section 30A which causes other persons to

fear that violence will be used against them are liable on conviction to a fine of

$10,000 and to imprisonment for 5 years or, to a fine of $5,000 and to

imprisonment for 6 months.

 

The Telecommunications Act Chap 47:31 states that a person has committed an

offence where, by means of any telecommunications service, sends communication

that is false or misleading and that is likely to endanger the safety of another person.

Persons under this Act on conviction are liable to a fine of $100,000 and

imprisonment for 3 years.

 

Teachers also have a responsibility to ensure that students refrain from harassing

others via the internet. The Education Act Chap 39:01 states that Principals of

schools are responsible for discipline and may suspend students who are considered

dangerous to other pupils.

 

Although laws directly governing harassment via the internet are not yet in existence

in Trinidad and Tobago, it is important to recognize that mechanisms have been

established to deal with the offence. Alongside the above-mentioned laws that deal

generally with harassment, the Cyber Crime Unit established in 2008 within the

Police Service, specifically targets this area. Approval has also been obtained for a

National Cyber-crime Policy and, there has been the successful drafting of a

Cyber Crime Bill, which aims at criminalizing computer related offences.

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