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My legal matter concerning an application for a Domestic Violence Order was managed by Mr Thomas Allen. I am grateful for the outcome he obtained. Without Mr Allen and his ongoing support, I would be certain of a different result. It has been an extremely stressful period. Mr Allen’s astute ability to liaise on my behalf and his expertise was invaluable and for which I am grateful as I am now able to move forward. Thanking you
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Armstrong Legal and specifically Mr Thomas Allen for representing me in my recent case. At the outset, I would like to thank Mr Allen for the very professional delivery of his legal service. From the first time that I met Mr Allen, I was very impressed with his demeanour and delivery as he made me feel at ease knowing the severity of my case. Mr Allen not only gave me the possible positive outcomes of the case but also the realisation of the worst-case scenario as far as sentencing goes. … I will certainly be recommending Armstrong Legal to any of my friends or family needing representation in criminal matters. Thank you so very much.
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Thank you Armstrong Legal, the lawyers that have helped over the past 3 years but more importantly, thank you to Thomas Allen for the major part you and Mr Buckland played. Cannot thank you enough. Cheers.
Hi all. I would like to thank Ms Lisa Riley for all her help with my legal issues this past month. It was the most harrowing experience of my life and thanks to her expertise, professionalism and knowledge of the law, I came out almost unscathed. I have no hesitation in recommending Lisa Riley and Armstrong Legal if you need help. The service is amazing and the cost was very minimal for the great outcome. Thank you Lisa for helping me in the most difficult time.
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I know I thanked you before we parted company but please allow me to reiterate in writing my sincere deepest thanks for defending me in court today. … Armstrong Legal certainly has a great Lawyer you are a credit to the company and I'm quite sure you will secure a very successful future! … My Kindest Regards and Thanks
Throughout Angela has been the consummate professional. She maintained a calm, yet strong demeanour remained informative and completely open in her communication and took complete ownership of the situation. We felt confident we finally had an advocate to steer us out of the nightmare we were in, and she did so with great respect and sincerity. I cannot speak more highly of Angela. She has literally rescued our family from what looked very much like a hopeless future.
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Soon after meeting Andrew I knew he was the solicitor I wanted to handle my matter. He immediately sprang into action which brought me stability and hope during a tumultuous time in my life. Andrew was never afraid to give me straight answers to my tough questions which is a true mark of integrity. He is clearly at ease in the court environment and I believe his calm and measured demeanour went a long way to helping me secure the best result from my day in court. I would certainly recommend you approach Andrew if you need assistance.
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Is Catfishing an Offence?
The term ‘catfishing’ has become common among internet users in the last few years. Catfishing refers to the act of luring someone to engage in an online relationship using a fake identity, often in order to extort money from them or obtain other advantages. While there is no specific criminal offence of catfishing in Australia, there are offences that are often committed after a person has been catfished. Opinions vary as to whether the act of catfishing, in the absence of financial motivations, could be prosecuted under existing criminal laws.
United States v Drew
One of the most widely publicised cases of catfishing was a 2007 Missouri case where a middle-aged woman catfished a 13-year-old girl who she thought had mistreated her daughter. The woman created a MySpace profile purporting to belong to a teenage boy and contacted the girl, starting a relationship with her. After a short period of talking and complimenting the girl, the woman ended the relationship, telling the young girl that the world would be a better place without her. The girl hung herself the same day.
In that case, prosecutors initially decided not to charge the woman as her actions were not motivated by financial gain and did not clearly amount to any particular offence. The following year, the woman was charged with four computer fraud offences. She was found guilty of the offences but these findings were overturned on appeal, with the court stating that Drew’s violations of the terms and conditions of MySpace were civil breaches of contract, rather than criminal offences.
Catfishing was also dealt with in findings made by the NSW Coroners Court in early 2020.
In early 2020, the NSW Coroner’s Court held an inquest into the death of 20-year-old Renae Marsden. The young woman committed suicide in 2013 after being dumped by a person she believed was a boyfriend called Jayden. She had been romantically involved with this person via texts and Facebook messages for a number of months. Unbeknownst to Renae Marsden, Jayden was, in fact, a fake persona that had been created and maintained by Marsden’s best friend, Camilla.
Camilla was not charged with any criminal offence, as there were no offences that reflected her actions. The Coroner did not make specific recommendations in respect of the introduction of criminal offences to deal with the type of catfishing Camilla had engaged in. However, he recommended that laws around coercive control and non-physical domestic and family violence in NSW be reviewed.
The Coroner’s decision was criticised by Deakin University academics Dr Marilyn McMahon and Paul McGorrery, who argued that a person who catfished in such a way could be charged under existing manslaughter laws.
Offences associated with catfishing
People who lure other people into online relationships often commit other offences against their victim. When this occurs, prosecuting them for the later offences may be straightforward, while the catfishing itself remains unaddressed.
Some of the offences that often flow from catfishing are:
Repeatedly contacting someone in a threatening or harassing manner, either online or offline, may amount to stalking, which is an offence under various laws in all Australian jurisdictions.
Requesting money using a false identity and/or for false reasons may amount to fraud, also known as obtaining a financial advantage by deception. Fraud is a criminal offence in all states and territories.
Using a carriage service to harass or offend
Where the internet is used to convey obscene material, to make threats or otherwise cause offence, the offender could be charged with using a carriage service to menace, harass, or cause offence under Commonwealth laws.
Where the victim of catfishing is under 16, numerous offences may apply, particularly where the internet is used to share sexual images or to set up a meeting with the child. These offences include:
- Possessing child abuse material;
- Using a carriage service for child abuse material;
- Using a carriage service to procure sexual activity with a person who the accused believed to be under 16
Is a specific offence needed?
The parents of Renae Marsden, and others in the Australian community, have called for a specific catfishing offence to be created. Others say that existing criminal laws are sufficient to prosecute most catfishers and that it would be difficult or impossible to legislate for situations that do not involve fraud or physical harm.
As catfishing breaches the terms and conditions of social media platforms, contacting the platform to have the offender’s profile removed is one way of addressing it.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.
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