Dáil debates

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022: Report and Final Stages


4:27 pm

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, RISE) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 11, to delete lines 1 to 30.

This amendment and the later amendment relating to the demonstration test are the two most significant issues for us and where we have the greatest problem. Section 10 is very problematic. I read the transcript of the Committee Stage debate and the Minister did not fundamentally deal with this issue. Section 10 creates the possibility of a person being criminalised purely for having material that is hateful, without that material being communicated to the public. That is a problem. It gets to the fundamental problem of the Bill, which is the creation of a thought crime. Persons can be criminalised for having hateful material on their computer but without having published it or caused incitement to hatred or a consequence for anybody else. A person who has hateful ideas, writes hateful things to himself or herself or downloads hateful material or whatever can be criminalised as a consequence of that. To be clear, I am against the hypothetical hateful material that this person has on his or her computer but it is extremely problematic to create this new category of thought crime and to pre-empt the incitement to hatred and propagation of hatred ideas.

As a part of that, section 10(3) states that where "it is reasonable to assume that the material was not intended for the personal use" the onus will be put onto the accused to prove their own innocence by showing the material that they prepared or even just material they possessed was never intended to be publicly communicated. Within section 10, we have the creation of thought crime and then a dangerous reversal of the burden of proof, where the burden is now placed on the accused to overturn the presumption that the material was not intended for personal use. This is extremely problematic. There is a real problem in terms of civil liberties with this section. As I understand it, on Committee Stage the Minister argued that we should not worry. He said that the DPP would not be taking cases willy-nilly and that he or she would be very sensitive. That cannot answer to us as legislators. We are creating law and we do not control what happens after that and we cannot be satisfied by promises that the DPP will or will not do something. Nor can we be satisfied by promises that the courts will or will not do something. We must try to create good law and this section, creating a thought crime, is very problematic.


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