Cyberbully served with lawsuit online
Australia has started to turn the tables on cyberbullies and others attempting to avoid the law. When a lawsuit is filed against someone or a company, the plaintiff in the case must serve a copy of the suit on the defendant. Otherwise, the suit can’t continue until the named defendant has an opportunity to read the charges against him and respond. This is referred to as “due process of law.” This applies in both civil and criminal cases.
If someone suspects they might be sued, it’s not uncommon to see him or her try to avoid receiving the court documents. Refusing to answer the door when a process server shows up, checking caller-ID and not answering the phone, or generally making yourself unavailable to be served are common ploys.
However, as a last resort, the law allows for service by publication when all attempts to serve the defendant in person have failed. As you might expect, few people read the fine print in the back of newspapers. Specific rules apply regarding service by publication in order for the court to be satisfied that due process has been met.
Australian constable Stuart Walton stated that “police will always pursue traditional means to enforce the law and to protect the community, but we won’t shy away from innovative methods to achieve positive outcomes either.”
The Victoria police obtained permission from the court to use Facebook to notify a suspect of charges filed against him. He was accused of using Facebook to harass, bully and threaten another person. The documents were sent to his Facebook inbox. A video was also made of the court orders and were read to the man who communicated electronically with the police. He stated he read the documents and understood the seriousness of the matter. He agreed to delete his Facebook profile.
“In this instance we were able to deliver justice through the same medium as the crime committed,” commented Walton. Once this method expands, cyberbullies will find it difficult to hide behind their laptops and cell phones.
Australia has blazed thetrail regarding e-legal service. In 2008, a Sydney court allowed lawyers to serve a rugby player with a subpoena through a text message.