Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
Amendments Nos. 17 and 19 propose to extend the anonymity provisions in section 5 of the Bill to the offence of harassment under section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. Anonymity and privacy provisions in legislation are an exception to the normal rules in regard to the administration of justice in public guaranteed by the Constitution. Any departure from this must be justifiable. I appreciate that the nature of image-based offences would certainly warrant the protection of privacy considering the intimate nature of the images. I am aware that, in the past, cases involving intimate images have been prosecuted under harassment laws. This is a very sensitive matter. However, as this Bill proposes to introduce distinct offences to deal with the intimate images, it is unlikely that this would be the case in the future. Harassment is a very wide-ranging offence that can be relatively minor or extremely serious, and the protection of privacy may not be justifiable in all cases. This requires careful consideration. I therefore ask Deputy Howlin not to press the amendments. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, has undertaken to consider this matter further in the context of another Bill, which is currently being prepared.