The use of phones and the internet is commonplace and fundamental to efficient communication in contemporary society. However, you may not be aware that misusing this method of communication can be considered a criminal offence.
In Australia, there are laws in place to ensure that all people using their phone and internet to communicate act appropriately. And while a significant portion of the community uses these tools to communicate, not everyone is aware of the law which can lead to criminal prosecution on account of misuse.
The Law (Carriage Service Offences)
The Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 474.17 (1)(a)(b) states a person will commit an offence if they use a carriage service in a manner that a reasonable person would consider to be menacing, harassing or offensive.
If a person is found guilty of offending that legislation, they could be met with a sentence of 3 years imprisonment.
What is a Carriage Service? (Carriage Service Definition)
The Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) s 7 defines carriage service as “a service for carrying communications by means of guided and/or unguided electromagnetic energy”. Broadly, this can be communications through text messages, phone calls, voice messages or social media posts and could also be missed phone calls.
What is a reasonable person? And how do we define menacing, harassing and offensive in this context?
Reasonable person: is a person who has an ordinary amount of intelligence, tolerance and knowledge and can apply this to the situation and make a decision. The reasonable person would reflect the general public’s point of view.
Menacing: is the act of threatening or intimidating another person. Sending emails and text messages or calling the recipient, to make them feel intimidated or concerned for their safety or another person’s safety could be regarded as menacing.
Harassing: is the action of persistently or repeatedly bothering another person, mainly when they have made it known they do not want to be in contact. Harassing can occur when a person continues to attempt to call another person without success or sends them numerous text messages.
Offensive: is where an action causes a person to be offended or annoyed. Using offensive language in text messages to the recipient or on social media posts could be regarded as offensive.
If a person is using their phone or internet in this manner, it is considered serious. If you use your phone or internet in this way or know of someone who does, pay attention and pass this vital information on.