Friday, 18 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Second Stage
I moved from Morse code in high frequency, through to very high frequency and later mobile phones and on to the Internet where we are today. In that short space of time, I have seen how communications have been used as a weapon to pull people into line.
I know this Bill deals with online communication but we must also look at bullying in the workplace and the classroom but particularly the former. I am familiar with this because a former colleague took his own life because he could take no more of it. The bully is the guy one meets in the staff room or corridor who may be the nicest person any of us could possibly meet until he or she gets into a room with one of us alone. These people can be the most heartless creatures. If they are like that one-to-one, what will they be like online? Much of the stuff that we have seen online has come from the school yard and we have to move to stop it.
While this Bill will go a long way in dealing with cyberbullying and the like, we need to look at other laws. I know the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act is a law that can be used to deal with bullying but it is difficult to prove a case. Bullying is usually a one-on-one issue. I remember a schoolteacher telling me one time that if she was called in by a certain person once more, she would close the door as she entered, bang her head as hard as she could off the wall, run out and say this person hit her, because this was the only evidence she would ever have that she was being bullied. I thank the Labour Party for really good work on this and the Government also for accepting the work of Deputy Howlin.