THE determined dad of missing toddler Katrice Lee could be a figurehead to educate youngsters on the consequences of cyber-bullying.
Richie Lee, from Hartlepool, told Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg he would be willing to work with young people to teach them about the dangers of their actions on the internet and how they can affect others.
It comes after Richie’s daughter Natasha and ex-wife Sharon were cruelly taunted on Facebook by Donna Wright, 33, of Hillside Court, Spennymoor – Mr Hogg’s jurisdiction area – who was handed a 12-week suspended sentence earlier this year.
And Richie is even more determined to succeed in his campaign for tougher laws on online harrassment after Hannah Smith, 14, from Leicestershire, took her own life after months of abuse on social networking site ask.fm.
He said: “I predicted that someone else would lose their life, that’s the worst of the situation.
“I feel unless there’s some greater deterrent there, it will continue.
“Because people are getting away with it – it’s already been proven with Donna Wright, with the lack of action, she actually got more bravado.”
The Mail was invited to a meeting between Mr Hogg and Richie at his home in the Queensland Road area, where they discussed a campaign for tougher legislation on internet “trolls”.
Mr Hogg said a proactive approach is needed in schools.
Richie, 63, whose two-year-old daughter Katrice vanished almost 32 years ago from a Naafi store in Germany, where he was serving with the British Army, replied: “I love the grass-roots idea – if I’ve got to go into schools I will. “It could be about talking to youngsters and saying ‘once you press that send button, for you it might be the end of the film, but for that other person it’s a living nightmare, the beginning of torture’.”
Mr Hogg said: “It’s people praying on people in a vulnerable position, that’s what’s so horrible.”
He added: “The issue is where consequences are causing people to commit suicide, assault doesn’t have to be physical, there’s a line and once that line is crossed we need clear legislation where the police take action.
“One in five people are victims of burglary, but one in three people are victims of cyber-bullying.”
He said police are supporting youth schemes and there are plans to teach youngsters about cyber-bullying.
“Now is the time we really need to take some vigorous action,” added Mr Hogg.
He said a three-pronged approach is needed, with a strong code of practice for site bosses to monitor their own systems, then a “crossing line” has to be defined as to when behaviour becomes a crime and the third aspect is to work with young people, “to hopefully get a generation where they won’t do this”.
He added that a restorative justice approach, where the consequences of behaviour are brought to the perpetrators’ attention, would also be useful.
The initiative also involves Hartlepool MP Iain Wright and Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger.
An anti-social behaviour bill is going through Parliament and Mr Wright wants to table an amendment to include cyber-bullying.