Friday, 18 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages
Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 seek to include private messages within the ambit of the offence under section 4. Senators will understand the difficulty in seeking to legislate in the area of communications, speech and private interactions. It is imperative that any such offences do not interfere unduly with the constitutional right to the freedom of speech and that they are proportionate.Extensive consultations were held with relevant justice stakeholders to develop this offence and the main concerns were that a very broad provision in relation to messaging and communications could see a lot of online posts or communications between persons coming within the remit of the offence. The inclusion of the word "private", particularly as it appears undefined, could broaden the scope of this offence in an undesirable way. It is not clear whether the word "private" relates to personal information or, for example, private information that could be reasonably communicated in the public interest. For those reasons, unfortunately, I cannot I cannot accept the amendment.