MP secures a promise for ‘Zach’s Law’ to protect people with epilepsy

The Government has backed a call from Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater for a law to protect people with epilepsy from online trolling.

By Dominic Brown
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:30 pm
Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater with Zach Eagling
Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater with Zach Eagling

Ms Leadbeater called for "Zach’s Law" to be included in the Online Safety Bill currently going through Parliament.

In response, Chris Philp, Minister for the Digital Economy, promised that the Government would soon introduce separate legislation to outlaw malicious communications that harm people with epilepsy.

"Zach’s Law" is named after 11-year old Zach Eagling, from Hartshead, who has epilepsy and cerebral palsy and was maliciously targeted on social media with tweets designed to cause seizures.

Speaking in Parliament, Ms Leadbeater said: “I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Zach and his mum, Claire, at their home in Hartshead a few weeks ago.

"We chatted about school and his forthcoming holiday. He even invited me to the pub!

"But Zach also has epilepsy. Disgustingly he was trolled a few years ago online and sent flashing images by bullies, designed to trigger his condition and give him an epileptic seizure.”

After the Government voted down her amendment, Ms Leadbeater said: “I believe this Bill was a perfect legislative vehicle to bring in Zach’s Law and it had the support of the Epilepsy Society.

"But while I am disappointed that the Government has refused this opportunity to change the law, I am glad that my amendment has led the Minister to make a firm commitment to act.

"I will be keeping up the pressure to ensure that Zach’s Law is brought in with the minimum possible delay.”

Nicola Swanborough, head of external affairs at the Epilepsy Society, said: “We were thrilled to hear the Government give their unequivocal commitment to introducing Zach’s Law, making it a specific offence to troll people with epilepsy by sending flashing images online.

“A huge thanks to Kim Leadbeater for holding the Government’s feet to the flames on this issue and ensuring that the voice of her constituent – 11-year-old Zach Eagling – was heard in Parliament.

“This offence will be a first in epilepsy and is a real win for everyone who has joined us on our Zach’s Law campaign.

"Most importantly, it will make social media a safer place for the 600,000 people with the condition in the UK.

“We now urge the Government to enact this legislation without delay.”

Claire Keer, Zach’s mum, said: “I am so happy to hear that the Government have committed to enacting Zach’s Law in full.

"Zach is my hero and always will be. I am delighted that at the age of 11 years old, he is on the verge of changing the law.

"I ask the Government to draft this offence as a matter of urgency.

"My thanks go to Kim, who has been a steadfast and devoted campaigner. She is a fighter, and she has come through for us.”

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