Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 5, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following: "(2) The person against whom the offence was committed may at any time, apply to a judge of the Circuit Court, to waive their right to anonymity. The Court may accept this provided the person is of sound mind and not a protected or relevant person or award of court and provided also that the Court is of the opinion that it is in the interests of justice for the person to waive their right to anonymity.".
This amendment comes out of committee proceedings and is probably related to the previous group of amendments from Deputy Howlin. It is important to put it on the record. It is about the waiving of anonymity and allowing a person the choice to waive their anonymity. It is about people's agency and regaining control over anything that has been taken from them by the non-consensual sharing of images. If a person waives their anonymity, then they can also name the perpetrator. We must listen to the victims and survivors in these circumstances and bring forward legislation that will empower them.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland, RCNI, has stated that in the light of recent Court of Appeal decisions on the anonymity of adult complainants in sexual cases, it is more important than ever that, wherever possible, complainants are empowered to waive any right they may have to anonymity. Accordingly, RCNI welcomes this proposed amendment and urges that it be restored on Report Stage or thereafter.
I understand that the Minister has said she intends to bring such a proposal forward in other legislation and that speaks to the attempt to rush this Bill through, as has been addressed. She has said she intends to address the matter in another Bill at a later stage. I know that the intentions are there and the legislation has already been drafted, but I would be worried about the potential for this to slip, despite the best will in the world. January might become February or March and that might continue through the year. I would be worried about that because it can happen. There is no doubt that the Department is legislatively demanding, which is understandable. I know the Minister of State is saying that a Bill is being drafted at the moment but the question is whether it will it come forward in January or February, or later in the year. That is the danger and I would be concerned that things would go on the long finger and not be dealt with. We need a firm commitment in terms of the timeframe on this matter.