Friday, January 25, 2019

Hoist by her own petard

Sarah Dowie is a National MP. Back in 2015, she voted for National's Harmful Digital Communications Act, an overly-broad law which criminalised exposing corrupt politicians on the internet. Now, she's being investigated for possible prosecution under that law:

Police are investigating a text message, allegedly sent from the phone of National Party MP Sarah Dowie, to her former colleague and ex lover Jami-Lee Ross.

The police investigation is said to focus on whether the text message - which came after the break-up of their extra-marital relationship - constituted an incitement to self-harm, which is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Ross, 33, has previously named Invercargill MP Dowie, 43, as one of the women with whom he had an extra-marital relationship while National MP for Botany.

The text message included the words: "You deserve to die."

Which seems like a pretty clear-cut violation of s179(2) Crimes Act, which the HDCA amended in one of the few non-controversial parts of the law. But it may simply be causing harm by posting digital communication.

A lot depends on what exactly the police decide to charge her with. Because the "inciting suicide" offence carries a maximum penalty of three years, meaning that if Dowie is convicted, she would automatically lose her seat in Parliament. And if the Police don't charge her with that, its going to look like another case of them going soft on politicians, just as they have done in the past.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering: in this post, I've advocated that an MP be prosecuted for their apparent criminal activity, and should face the legal consequences of their actions if convicted. Which is the sort of thing which would cause anguish, anxiety, or feelings of insecurity to an ordinary reasonable person in their position. And I want it to cause that harm: I am relishing the irony of Dowie having voted for the law she may be convicted under, and I want MPs to think about that when voting for such laws in the future. But by doing so, have I committed a crime? If so, I think it would prove the point perfectly: that while cyber-bullying is a serious problem, this over-broad law goes too far in trying to prevent it.