Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
There are a number of amendments here. Most are sensible and try to expand the realm which this legislation will cover. However, we need to be cautious about part of it. I fully respect what Deputy Barry mentioned earlier about holding material and having material in one's possession even if one is not distributing or publishing it. We often come across cases, as have been told to me, where a person receives something without looking it, and then that person is holding it without requesting it or having any part in it. We need to be cautious about that. Many people receive material which they never asked for. I have certainly come across situations where women have relayed to me that they have received intimate images of people that they never asked for and never wanted, yet the images arrive in their inbox, sometimes multiple times. While they never wanted those images, it would be unfortunate if this legislation put them on the wrong side of the law.
I agree with Deputy Bríd Smith that we need to be careful that we do not criminalise young people for the rest of the lives for something that happened when they were teenagers, often very young teenagers. We need to be careful in that regard because much of this activity happens between teenagers. While we may frown upon it, it happens. That is the reality. We must try to build a society where this culture diminishes, moves to one side or is eliminated. While this is very much about the legal matter, part of this is, of course, about education and developing a much more mature sense of what consent is all about and how people can work to ensure that happens in all aspects of their lives at all ages.
While some of these amendments may be appropriate, we need to be careful around some of them. I am interested in hearing the Minister of State's view on them.