Did you hear the one about the Kiwi bloke who said nasty things about a judge on social media only to face the same judge a few days later over unpaid traffic fines?
It sounds like a pub joke or a suburban myth, doesn’t it?
Rest assured, this is a true story.
And it goes like this: Taranaki District Court Judge Allan Roberts announced his retirement on 12 January 2016. Unemployed man Troy LaRue found the story on social media. He commented, rather unwisely, using some pretty unsavoury language. On 21 January 2016, when appearing in the New Plymouth District Court over more than $6000 in unpaid fines, Mr LaRue faced exactly the same judge he’d sworn at on Facebook.
The transcript of the hearing is pretty amusing. The Judge gets the Court Registrar to hand Mr LaRue a copy of the Facebook posts, then tells the defendant to “Read it out loud”. LaRue obliges, reading onto the court record:
“LOL I hope the fuckers gone by Friday. Ha ha. Fucker, nah fuckin cunt whose old face and saggy chin. Fuck off”.
The Judge then slaps LaRue with 300 hours of community service, orders him to pay the outstanding fines and tells him to “work off your laughter in the cells while we get the order typed”.
The Perils of Social Media
People post a great deal of their lives on social media, and often they aren’t too concerned about who can see it, despite each of us having the ability to determine individual privacy settings for our pages and our posts.
And here’s a warning, be careful what you type. Threats, false claims or accusations, racist or sexually demeaning remarks, bullying, slights on character – these are all types of conduct which may affect your career, or even give rise to legal action or criminal prosecution.
In Australia, there are around 14 million Facebook users, and about 5 million people who use Instagram on a regular monthly basis. There are nearly 3 million Twitter users and about 2 million people using Snapchat monthly. This is only part of the social media statistics. There’s no doubt that we are a nation of social media users and these numbers are ever-increasing.
The law in Australia is struggling to keep pace with the introduction of new technologies. Facebook, along with other social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Google Plus (to name just a few) are a growing source of court evidence.
Text messages too, are becoming increasingly important to police and lawyers as they begin investigating, collecting evidence and building cases.
Internet browsing, shopping behaviour, emails and online banking information – it can all be accessed and used by law enforcers if the need arises.
Furthermore, new laws introduced in Australia mean that your meta data is now kept for two years by your ISP (Internet Service Provider, e.g. Telstra, Optus) in case law enforcement agencies want to access it – and they don’t even need a warrant to do so.
The message is clear: have fun online, but beware… the person watching may be able to affect your future.