Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
Like others, I welcome this Bill.
The consensus in the House is we need to do more. These amendments strengthen the Bill. They certainly do not undermine or weaken it and the Minister of State needs to look clearly at them.
The IT changes over the past two decades have made it much easier for such communications. As a public representative, I have dealt with some of these cases. I have had parents contacting me, particularly in cases involving children, not so much concerning two adults. It is usually in a school setting and has totally undermined and broken the child it happens to. Some of the cases involved the child's face superimposed on a graphic picture which went around the whole school. It often started in the school but ended up in the community. In some of the cases I know about the Garda was involved. The cases did not really go anywhere, however. There is an impact on the family and the victim. It will live with them for the rest of their days.
The biggest worry that the parents and the victims have is once an image is on the Internet, it is there forever. One tries to remove it but, unfortunately, it cannot be done. That is part of the worry that plays on the mind of the victim and his or her family.
We need to do more to support individuals as well. The Minister of State needs to look at that. We need to train and upskill our schools and the Garda Síochána. There needs to be easier access to counselling.
Years ago, some people would have dismissed this as kids having fun but we know the impact it has had on some children and adults. I appeal to the Minister of State to do more and if he is opposing the amendments he needs to explain clearly why. I do not see how they weaken the Bill. They add to it. As I began by saying, I welcome the Bill and the fact there is consensus in the House that we need to do more. It is a long time coming.