Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
I move amendment No. 16:
16. In page 5, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:“Harassment
5. (1) A person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse—(a) intentionally or recklessly—(2) A person guilty of harassment is liable—(i) persistently follows, watches, pesters or besets another person,(b) by those acts seriously interferes with the peace and privacy of the other person or causes alarm, distress or harm to the other person, is guilty of the offence of harassment.
(ii) persistently communicates with another person, or
(iii) persistently communicates with a third person about another person,
and(a) on summary conviction to a class A fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both, or(3) Where, in proceedings for an offence under this section, the court is satisfied that thedefendant by his or her acts both—
(b) on conviction on indictment to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years or to both.(a) intentionally or recklessly seriously interfered with another person’s peace and privacy, and(4) Where, in proceedings for an offence under this section, the court is satisfied that in the course of or for the purposes of committing the offence the defendant—
(b) caused alarm, distress or harm to the other person, the court may take that fact into account as an aggravating factor in determining any sentence to be imposed on the defendant for the offence.(a) made use of personal information about the other person, being information that would, in the ordinary course of events, be known only to the other person orthe court may take that fact into account as an aggravating factor in determining any sentence to be imposed on the defendant for the offence.”.members of the family, or friends, of the other person, or(b) made use of any electronic device or software in order to monitor, observe, listen to or make a recording of the other person or his or her movements, activities
and communications, without the other person’s knowledge and consent,
On the last amendment, we may be in danger of sacrificing what could be good Bill over just wanting to get it passed before Christmas. I do not think we are doing anybody a service by doing that. Could the Government perhaps commit to coming back in January with this Bill and putting it through then? I am worried about that. I know it is the Minister of State's, probably the Department's and everybody's intention to have a review but in the real world the review will probably not happen which is the sad part about this. That is no reflection on anybody as the Department has a great deal of work on its plate and so forth, and it is certainly seems that after tomorrow, this Bill goes into the distance as far as the Department is concerned. I am a bit worried about that. This is what we are faced with and it is probably a bit of a moot point talking about any of the amendments tonight, although they do need to be put forward and spoken about, in any event.
Amendment No. 16 inserts a new section on harassment in the Bill and it comes from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, RCNI. It has submitted that in the context of intimate partner violence. The use of monitoring devices, including spyware, is a very common, insidious, often hard to detect and extremely serious form of harassment and abuse. This kind of behaviour should be named and punished as such in our criminal law. The RCNI’s understanding of the Dáil select committee proceedings was that there were fears that the presence of electronic spyware and physical monitoring devices, and the activities evidenced by their presence, may be very difficult to prove and therefore present an additional hurdle to victims. They may be the case on occasion while on other occasions, their existence and activities are easy to prove because unambiguous physical or digital evidence points directly to them. There is no reason there should not be a specific offence ready and waiting to mark the gravity of any spying behaviours which can be proved. That is of vital importance. Accordingly, RCNI recommends that this is retained in this Bill as a stand-alone offence, with a maximum penalty at least as great as that for deliberate or reckless distribution of intimate images without consent.
In some circumstances, it may not be detectable or enforceable but in other circumstances, it will be. I do not think that is enough grounds not to do something, just because some people will get away with it. That is the nature of crime. Some criminals get away with it and some do not but we still have laws.