Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
I thank the Minister of State for accepting the potential of my proposed subsection (2). I do not know whether it is technically possible to amend my amendment simply to add that subsection to the existing section 4. The Ceann Comhairle might be able to advise whether it is technically possible to do so.
We had a lot of debate on this issue and it goes to the heart of online bullying. Obviously, we do not want to trample in any way on freedom of speech, but one person's freedom of speech is another person's complete harassment to the point of driving people to suicide. Unfortunately, we have very clear and real evidence of that. It is why I believe that the offence as defined in this subsection is required. As I said, the redrafting of the section, as proposed in my amendment, was to deal with the issue of intent and ensure it would not be possible for somebody who has caused extraordinary harm to another individual through the distribution of threatening or abusive materials to escape that by being able to say that the harm done was not intended.
I do not know whether the Ceann Comhairle got technical advice on the amendability of my amendment.