Bullying ruling a win for victims


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10-03-2010 05:45 PM


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10-03-2010 05:45 PM



10-03-2010 06:56 PM

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2010-03-10 17:45:47

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Bullying ruling a win for victims -

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Bullying ruling a win for victims

Simon Lauder reported this story on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 18:42:00

MARK COLVIN: The lawyer for a school girl who was bullied and abused over many years says a court
decision granting the right to compensation should change the way the system views bullying

The Victorian Supreme Court has overturned a ruling that the bullying victim was ineligible for
government compensation because the perpetrators were too young to have criminal intent.

The decision makes it clear that the legal immunity child bullies enjoy is not an excuse to
disregard a victim's suffering.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: From the age of seven she was sworn at, insulted, pinched, scratched, pushed,
punched, spat on, threatened and laughed at by a group of girls at her state primary school in
regional Victoria.

BULLYING VICTIM: I wasn't wanting to go to school because I was getting put through harassment and
bullying, I was getting teased and I was getting hit and bashed and it just...I was scared and I
ended up getting post-traumatic stress out of it and I still have it to this day.

SIMON LAUDER: The girl is now 15 years old and her identity is protected by the Victorian Supreme
Court. It's judgement has overturned the decision that despite four years of bullying she was not
eligible for compensation.

BULLYING VICTIM: For me to overturn a law is pretty good because now others won't have to go
through it and the school can actually realise they've got bullies they have to deal with .

SIMON LAUDER: The Supreme Court judgement says just because the bullies were too young to be held
criminally responsible that doesn't mean no crime was committed.

Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says it's a landmark decision.

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: This is the first recognition that bullying is in fact a crime and deserving of
compensation. I'm going to be very interested to see whether it's extended to cyber bullying and
cyber harassment as well.

SIMON LAUDER: The family's lawyer, Alistair Lyall, says the judgment should change the way similar
compensation claims are treated. Mr Lyall says it may also have implications for bullying cases

ALISTAIR LYALL: If there were similar legislations in other states it could well impact on those

SIMON LAUDER: Does it also add more weight to how a victim felt about the bullying rather than what
the perpetrators intended or where capable of?

ALISTAIR LYALL: Oh absolutely because the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal is the opportunity
for society to say to the victims "this isn't on, we're sorry for what happened, we'll try and give
you a bit of a helping hand".

SIMON LAUDER: The girl's parents suffered financially after putting her into an expensive private
school to protect her from the bullies. When their application to the victims of crime assistance
tribunal was rejected they took the case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or

That tribunal dismissed the threats to the girl's life from her classmate as 'hollow' and without
criminal intent.

The Chairman of the National Centre Against Bullying and former chief justice of the Family Court,
Alastair Nicholson, says VCAT should have given more weight to the victim's experience.

ALASTAIR NICHOLSON: I was a bit disappointed in the response of VCAT in particular when it said
that these were hollow threats and therefore really not very serious. I think we tend to forget
that these sort of things are very serious to the recipient of them and a seven or eight-year-old
girl can be quite terrified in those circumstances.

SIMON LAUDER: VCAT also cited Victorian law which deems a child under the age of 10 incapable of
committing an offence because they can't have criminal intent.

Professor Nicholson says that's not relevant to the issue of victim compensation.

ALASTAIR NICHOLSON: That doesn't mean that what they're doing doesn't amount to a crime, it simply
means that they're immune from any consequences for it. But from the point of view of the victim,
it doesn't matter very much to her whether the people doing it are over or under 10, she's still

SIMON LAUDER: The case now goes back to VCAT where a compensation amount will be decided.

MARK COLVIN: Simon Lauder.