Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 5, line 14, after “section 2 or 3” to insert “or section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997”.
As the Ceann Comhairle said, we discussed this issue on Committee Stage. In the original Bill I drafted, to amend the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, I had the harassment elements included in a judge's capacity to preserve the victim's anonymity. I refer to the amendment of section 10 of the 1997 Act. The Minister was of the view that the online harassment elements should not be encompassed in the capacity to keep the victim anonymous so the revised section 5 of the Bill before us preserves anonymity for victims of offences under sections 2 and 3, but not the anonymity of victims under section 10 of the 1997 Act. My two amendments are to reinstate the provision so that a judge, in proceedings, would have the capacity to give a direction that the identity of a victim of harassment should not be made known. I say this mainly because of the experience I have had, since the Bill was originally published, of people who have suffered online harassment. It can be absolutely crushing, literally to the point of suicide. I can say with some certainty that there is a fear that people will not come forward if they feel the harassment they are suffering would be compounded by having their names in the media or otherwise known. I ask the Minister of State to consider allowing the harassment element to be encompassed within the capacity of the court to make a determination that the anonymity of the victim should be preserved in such cases.