‘Keyboard warriors’ warned: Don’t add to the crime rate
KEYBOARD warriors who illegally name and shame alleged criminals could find themselves in hot water, as would be "citizen journalists" and vigilante justice proponents run rife on social media about crime in the region.
Some passionate members of Mackay's online community have taken to naming alleged adult and juvenile offenders on public platforms, before court cases are finalised, including posting photos and screen shots of online profiles.
It is understood some online group members have also attended the Mackay courthouse to sit in on cases that have been splashed across Facebook feeds.
"The anonymity, and lack of accountability to report accurately and truthfully, of so-called citizen journalists creates a real problem for Mackay and our community," legal expert and criminal lawyer Bill Potts said.
"However, if these keyboard warriors break the law or defame people through inaccuracy or malice then they can face the courts as well."
In some cases social media commentators have even suggested using violence against any would be thieves.
"It may be wrongly well intentioned, but it has the whiff of a lynch mob mentality," the twice past Queensland Law Society president said.
Possible criminal charges include unlawful stalking and assault as well as breaches of the Youth Justice Act and defamation, which is a civil matter liable for monetary damages, against the poster or even the page administrator.
Last year, in a landmark case, a New South Wales Supreme Court Justice ruled media companies can be held liable for defamatory comments made by third parties on their public social media channels. The case is currently being appealed.
Mackay Detective Acting Inspector Mick Searle said "threatening to commit a crime against someone who you think may have committed a crime doesn't solve anything".
"We're not going to solve and fix crime by committing more crime," Det Act Insp Searle said.
"We still live in a democratic society where people are innocent until they are proven guilty.
"And the courts determine someone's guilt or innocence, not the police and certainly not any social media groups."
Det Act Insp Searle said people were entitled to believe their property was going to be safe.
"The reality is there is a small percentage of people who don't respect that," he said. "People need to show a bit of restraint because inflammatory reactions don't help.
"And we don't want good people who have just lost their cool getting in trouble because they've just made some poor or rash decisions.
"Most people are well intentioned, but there can be ramifications for their actions."
Anyone with information about a crime should phone Police link on 13 14 44 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. If a crime is under way ring 000.