In a potentially precedent-setting ruling, a former Merimbula woman has been successful in having an AVO placed against a cyber bully.
Jasmin Newman has been the subject of a barrage of harassment and vile social media menacing over the past two years. On October 19, Magistrate Bradd in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court, ruled in favour of Ms Newman, and ordered an Apprehended Personal Violence Order against Melanie Natasha Hamilton for a period of two years.
In the court judgment it is outlined that Ms Hamilton is also known by the name Melanie Coutts and that using that name has caused comments on Ms Newman to be posted on a Facebook page called Domestic Violence Abuser Excusers.
Many of the comments appeared under the name of “Annabelle Jones”, who the court found “is likely” Ms Coutts, but that whether they were one and the same was “moot” given it was clear Ms Coutts was a cause of information being published.
In one post on that Facebook page – which appears to have since been closed down – the administrator attacked and denigrated Ms Newman’s teenage daughter.
Other comments posted to the public page included “she should be run out of town”, “she is very dangerous”, and that she is “an evil influence”. Comments even appeared while court proceedings were underway such as “we can’t wait for you to go down”.
Magistrate Bradd said he was satisfied that such behaviour constituted intimidation due to harassment. He also found Ms Newman had reasonable grounds to fear for her safety and that of her daughter.
Ms Newman told Fairfax Media this week she was pleased to see the judgment in her favour and didn’t rule out further legal action.
“This case sends a really clear message that people who act in this way online, who troll under an alias, it’s unacceptable – you can’t do that and destroy someone’s life,” she said.
“Society can’t keep behaving like this. It’s psychological torment that’s utterly soul destroying.”