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When Pranks Go Wrong

11th December 2012

Tragedy struck last week. In what seemed like a harmless prank, Australian Radio DJs were able to feign the Queen’s accent over the phone to secure private information from a nurse about Kate Middleton’s recent hospital visit. Soon after, it was reported that the nurse committed suicide.

The original video, which has been made private since the tragic events, received millions of views and made national headlines. The radio show has since been cancelled and the DJs have gone on record to issue a very heartfelt and tearful apology to the victim and her family (she was a mother of 2).

The radio DJs are in potential legal trouble, too, since they did not obtain a consent from the victim. They risk up to 5 years in prison but there are some legal hurdles that might be difficult to prove. The big question being, are they criminally responsible for the death of the hospital nurse?

So what does this all mean? Is it the end of pranks as we know it? Unlikely, but there’s no doubt that the laws of deceiving people over the phone (and other communication mediums) will get a lot more strict and a lot more explicit on culpability.

Personally speaking, I believe the DJs, executives, and legal council share responsibility in not getting prior consent from Jacintha Saldanh to air the prank at her expense. A hefty fine, suspension (the show’s already cancelled), training, public service announcements, etc. should be in order. However, I just don’t think this was criminal behavior, even with the tragedy that followed. As the video states above, it’ll be hard to prove that the suicide was “reasonably foreseeable” given that the DJs were clearly not taking the prank seriously (poor accents, laughing on air, etc).

In any case, that’s just my opinion, here’s an opinion piece recently published at CNN from an Australian lawyer who makes his case for the DJ’s negligence. What do you think? Should they get the book thrown at them for the result of the prank?

You can find out “When Pranks Go Wrong” Collection here.

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