In spite of many things being done against it, bullying and cyber bullying continue to get worse in the UK and in other countries. Individuals, communities and civic groups are frantically working to make things better (especially concerning law and schools) for the thousands of people who (usually unwittingly) fall victim to this vicious, pernicious and ubiquitous type of crime. Learn about Bullying and the Law in the UK!
Bullying and the Law in the UK: Defining Terms
Most people know what bullying is. Essentially, it’s some type of re-enactment of the David and Goliath story. Only, with bullying, it’s not so easy to put down or silence the mean, outspoken, abusive, ugly (physically or behaviorally) and seemingly-indestructible “giant.”
Bullying, though (thanks to the Internet, computers and electronic mobile devices), has evolved (or, should one say “devolved”) into something more sinister, indecipherable, and difficult to combat—i.e, “cyber bullying.”
The BBC defines this phenomenon: “Cyber bullying is when a person or a group of people uses the Internet, mobile phones, online games or any other kind of digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else.”
Other action verbs that fall under this infamous rubric (i.e., law and schools) include:
- Abuse (emotionally, psychologically, physically or socially)
- Lay under siege
- Lord over
Where Does Society Stand Right Now—Especially Concerning Cyber Bullying and the Law in the UK?
In order to get more people involved in initiatives to get bullying and cyber bullying under better control, massive education/awareness campaigns need to be organized and disseminated. The process can be started simply by imparting important statistics and facts, especially those obtained from scientific studies and research endeavors. Some examples include:
- About 22% of young people (ages 11 to 16) in a special study conducted by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) had been victims of cyber bullying.
- A cyber bullying report (2006) sponsored by MSN discovered that 11% of teenagers in the UK had experienced some forms of cyber bullying.
- A 4-year study (2007) by Noret and River established that 15% of the in-excess of 11 thousand surveyed chits had been the victims of sinister and overly-aggressive emails and texts; the study also found that the problem appears to get worse with each passing year, especially in reference to new, ever-improving technologies.
- The DCSF cyber bullying information-gathering campaign discovered that thirty-four percent of youngsters (ages ranging from 12 to 15) claimed that they had been cyber bullied.
- Using feedback from surveys directed at teachers, NASUWT has determined that cyber bullying (besides affecting students/youngsters) can greatly impact the personal and professional lives of staff, often affecting teaching practices, job satisfaction and personnel motivation.
Bullying and the Law in the UK : Are There Laws in the UK to Protect against Bullying/Cyber bullying?
Although there is no law presently in the books which directly refers to “cyber bullying,” most of the acts committed by bullies and cyber bullies are addressed in laws, ordinances and policies already in place. Some of the most salient or important include:
- The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997
- The Communication Act of 2003
- The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994
- The Malicious Communication Act of 1998
- The Public Order Act of 1986
- The Obscene Publication Act of 1959
- The Computer Misuse Act of 1999
- The Crime and Disorder Act of 1998
- The “Breach of the Peace” (common law ordinance)
- Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO) authorized under the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998
The last two legal options above are not “acts” passed recently by legislative bodies but they can, nevertheless, be used to combat bullying and cyber bullying. Some of the acts committed when cyber bullying, for example, can be considered “breaches of the peace” episodes—consequently, they can be prosecuted.
By the same token, ASBOs can be used to restrain the malicious behavior of some individuals or groups. Once such an order has been issued against an individual, failure to comply can then lead to prosecution, since not abiding by one is a criminal offence.
This option can be used with other measures (including restraining orders) to curb, control or reduce the acts committed by someone suspected or thought to be guilty of bullying or cyber bullying.
The bottom line is that there are laws in the books that can be used to combat the many abuses of bullies and cyberbullies. Unfortunately, some of the remedies available may only be of a civil nature or can only lead to fines and citations; in other cases (especially involving threats, clear breaches of an established law or statute, invasion of privacy, using cell phones to harass/intimidate or stalk anyone, etc.), criminal sanctions can follow.
Bullying and the Law in the UK : Conclusion
Everyone can help to reduce and properly challenge instances of bullying and cyberbullying. Obviously, it would be best if legislators enact laws and ordinances which can, if aggressively enforced, lead to punishment of bullies and cyber bullies.
Since it usually takes society a while to catch up with new social and technological advances, however, everyone may have to wait until such “perfect” laws are passed.
In the mean time, it’s best if everyone just depends on the laws, ordinances and policies already in place. By enforcing them, bullying and cyberbullying can be effectively challenged.
Other than that, it’s a matter of making sure victims get the support and attention they need to overcome the effects of the abuses they undergo. Such “abuses,” by the way, are especially egregious if they stem from religious, sexual, or racial/ethnic motives.
Fortunately, there are strong laws to protect victims of such types of crimes.
By banding together to fight bullying and cyber bullying, everyone can take a bite out of these ubiquitous and plague-like criminal activities!