Police use FaceBook to serve intervention order on people they can’t find

Australian Police have taken the unusual step of serving an intervention order via social networking site FaceBook. The order seeks to ban the accused cyber-stalker from bullying, threatening or intimidating another internet user.

In the Australian first, the Police Constable had a video shot of him reading out the interim intervention order to the accused person, as if he was directly speaking to the individual and then made to serve the order.

The order, with an explanation plus contact details for the Police and the Court were typed up and sent in private messages to the person’s FaceBook account.

The complaint arose after a woman claimed that her former boyfriend had harassed and bullied her via their FaceBook accounts. The woman felt intimidated and made a report to the Police.

The boyfriend had been the subject of an earlier intervention order but this had lapsed when the woman was re-contacted by her former boyfriend via her FaceBook account. The Police sought to physically locate the boyfriend but could not find him at his last known address or place of work. Efforts to track him via his FaceBook account indicated he was in Australia.

This new and innovative approach to serving the intervention order was upheld by a magistrate despite the former boyfriend not attending court in person. The order also required the former boyfriend to remove his FaceBook profile.

However, initially the Police could not be certain that the boyfriend had read the private messages though it was confirmed that the video had not been viewed. When the Police did manage to locate the boyfriend he confirmed he had read the FaceBook messages.

The Police expect having to use the internet and social networking sites to locate, contact and warn offenders in the future especially when the offence has been committed online.

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