Libby Bell's parents back new law to put bullies behind bars
THE heartbroken parents of an Adelaide schoolgirl who took her own life have backed a push to create a bullying- specific law that would put serious offenders behind bars for up to 10 years.
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the State Government should consider strengthening legislation to make it easier to prosecute bullies, in the wake of the tragic death of Libby Bell, 13.
The Seaford Secondary College Year 8 student died on August 28 after enduring what her family alleges was years of cyber bullying over Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
She was also subject to physical abuse from peers, including at a Seaford fast food outlet last year when she was filmed having a drink poured over her.
Police have revealed they have not ruled out laying criminal charges over the teen's death.
It comes as Libby's mother Crystal Bell paid tribute to her "gorgeous girl" while vowing to hold her tormentors to account.
Libby's uncle Clint Gow-Smith, 39, on Tuesday spoke on behalf of a devastated Ms Bell and her husband, Ryan. He said they supported Mr Stevens' call for the introduction of a law similar to Brodie's Law - introduced in Victoria in 2011 after 19-year-old Melbourne waitress Brodie Panlock ended her life five years earlier amid humiliating and intimidating bullying by co-workers.
Under the law, people who cause physical or mental harm to a victim through bullying face up to a decade in jail.
"They'd certainly be behind something like that," Mr Gow-Smith said.
He said Ms Bell intended to use her family's experience to become an anti-bullying advocate and encourage youngsters to "speak up" if they were experiencing problems.
Ms Bell has also pledged to fight for justice for Libby.
"It's beyond comprehension that you thought this could be a solution to end your pain," she posted on Facebook.
"I would have backed you the whole way and given my life for you to be at peace with yours. Those that bully and so-called friends that didn't speak up, they failed you gorgeous girl and we won't stop fighting for you until they are held accountable."
Ms Bell said she felt "lost and empty" following Libby's death.
"You Libby Bell have been an absolute joy and pleasure to raise these short almost 14 years of your beautiful life," she wrote.
"While I refuse to face the reality we now face for the rest of our lives, this afternoon was most definitely a soul-destroying experience to sit where you took your last precious breaths, one week on ... the longest we've ever spent away from you in your whole life."
"(We) will always cherish your affection you kind-hearted soul.
"I will forever have a hole in my heart, where you belong because you were just too perfect for heaven."
A makeshift shrine continues to grow at the Moana Surf Life Saving Club, where Libby was a member and an award-winning state junior life saver.
Notes, candles, pictures and more than 50 floral tributes have been placed there since the tragedy.
One note read: "Libby, we won't ever forget your smile. You may not have known it but you were a role model to many. From a Nipper."
Another said: "Bless this beautiful soul. We love you."
Her friend Blayze, who visited the site on Tuesday, said she had met Libby the year before through life saving and was devastated by her loss.
"We all love and miss her," she said.
"She was a really bubbly, spontaneous person. She will be missed by lots of people, her friends and family."
An SA Police spokeswoman said a thorough investigation had been launched into Libby's death and a report would be prepared for the State Coroner. She said criminal charges could be laid over the tragedy.
"If anything criminal should come from the coronial investigation then that will be considered," she said.
Meanwhile, parents of Seaford Secondary College students say bullying is rife within schools. Mother Steph Hamer, whose daughter Lauren is in Year 10, said online bullying was the most rampant.
"People are just so horrible online to young girls," she said.
"My daughter has said that the things she reads online are really awful."
Ms Hamer said online attacks made young people feel "worthless".
"I think the schools need to do more (to stop bullying)," she said.
"But it's very hard with social media ... because you can't monitor it all the time."
Another parent at the school, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had to take her daughters out of a previous school they attended because of bullying.
She said her children were subject to constant name-calling at their former school.
The mother said parents needed to take more responsibility for their children's behaviour and set better examples for them.
Seaford Secondary College declined to comment on Tuesday, referring injuries to the Education Department.
Late on Tuesday, Education and Child Development Minister Susan Close issued a statement declining to comment because the "continued reporting of the child's death would not be in the interests of other young people affected by this tragic situation".
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.