As part of our criminal law practice, we often encounter and deal with quite bizarre and interesting cases.
Frequently we see clients come to us extremely concerned about the things they had done in the heat of the moment. Take for instance a situation, where a person posts numerous negative reviews under various fake accounts, makes dozens of prank calls to the business and orders incontinence nappies for the owner of the business as payback for some extremely bad attitude and service. Should this person be concerned about possible prosecution and what can be done if he or she anticipates that the involvement of the police is only a matter of time?
Firstly, this person should cease any further activities related to the prank or negative reviews. It's important to stop any further actions that could be considered harassment or defamation. This includes refraining from making prank calls, writing negative reviews, or engaging in any other activities targeted at the owner of the business.
Remove or amend online reviews: If possible, the person should consider removing or amending any online reviews that could be considered defamatory or untrue. Defamation occurs when someone publishes material that could harm the reputation of another person, and businesses can also be defamed. If the negative reviews contain false statements or exaggerations, they may be considered defamatory.
Apologise to the owner: If the person is genuinely concerned about the potential legal consequences of his actions, he might consider offering a sincere apology to the owner for any harm or distress he may have caused. An apology may help to de-escalate the situation and reduce the likelihood of legal action being taken against him.
Consider potential criminal liability: In addition to civil liability for defamation, you should be aware that the above actions could potentially be considered criminal offenses under Australian law, such as using a carriage service to harass or menace someone.
What if the owner has a heart attack after receiving the nappies? Should you run to the police station to confess in the hope of reducing your sentence? Of course, you wouldn't, and for good reason, how can one even tell there is a causal link between your actions and the heart attack, it would be next to impossible.
In general, manslaughter is an unlawful killing that occurs without the intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. To establish a charge of manslaughter, the prosecution would typically need to prove that the accused's actions were a significant contributing factor to the victim's death and that the accused's actions were either criminally negligent or dangerous, that is if a reasonable person would have appreciated that it would expose another person to a risk of serious injury.
Although not impossible, it would generally be quite challenging for the prosecution to establish a direct causal link between prank calls/package of nappies and the owner's heart attack. It would be even more difficult to prove that the person’s actions were criminally negligent or dangerous, given that prank calls are unlikely to be considered a high-risk action that would foreseeably result in serious harm or death.
That being said, it's essential for anyone in such a situation to consult with a qualified legal professional, who can provide advice based on the specific circumstances of the case. As you can appreciate, details matter. In some cases, other criminal charges or civil liabilities might arise from the actions described, even if a charge of manslaughter is unlikely.
It's important to understand the potential legal consequences of stupid actions in the heat of the moment and take steps to mitigate any risks, if possible. Try to be mindful of your actions at all times, even when you feel mistreated. Responding disproportionately is never the answer and will likely result in issues for you in the long run. If you are feeling deep anger and cannot control your emotions in a certain situation, we think it's the ideal time to take a deep breath (maybe two or three, try inhaling twice in a row before you exhale) and practise mindfulness. Give it a try.
If you end up landing yourself in hot water, consulting with a lawyer and following their advice is essential in order to assess the potential risks and liabilities associated with the actions, as well as reviewing any further steps that may be necessary to mitigate the risks.
Practise mindfulness and positivity. Avoid impulsive actions and stay out of trouble!