Friday, 18 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 5, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following: “Harassment5. (1) A person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse—(a) intentionally or recklessly—is guilty of the offence of harassment.(i) follows, watches, pesters or besets another person,and
(ii) communicates with another person, or
(iii) communicates with a third person about another person,
(b) by those acts seriously interferes with the peace and privacy of the other person or causes alarm, distress or harm to the other person,
(2) A person guilty of harassment is liable—(a) on summary conviction to a class A fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both, or(3) Where, in proceedings for an offence under this section, the court is satisfied that the defendant by his or her acts both—
(b) on conviction on indictment to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to both.(a) intentionally or recklessly interfered with another person’s peace and privacy, andthe court may take that fact into account as an aggravating factor in determining any sentence to be imposed on the defendant for the offence.
(b) caused alarm, distress or harm to the other person,
(4) Where, in proceedings for an offence under this section, the court is satisfied that in the course of or for the purposes of committing the offence the defendant—(a) made use of personal information about the other person, being information that would, in the ordinary course of events, be known only to the other person or members of the family, or friends, of the other person, orthe court may take that fact into account as an aggravating factor in determining any sentence to be imposed on the defendant for the offence.”.
(b) made use of any electronic device or software in order to monitor, observe, listen to or make a recording of the other person or his or her movements, activities and communications, without the other person’s knowledge and consent,
This introduces an amended version of the section on harassment that was included in the Bill as initiated by Deputy Howlin. The section was deleted in the Dáil despite calls from NGOs for a specific section and offences to be included. The Bill is titled, "Harassment, Harmful and Communications and Related Offences Bill", but since this section was deleted, there is no specific harassment section in the Bill that the Minister of State is proposing to enact, which is of concern. The Government is making amendments relating to harassment offences in the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. I have concerns about those and we will discuss them shortly, but I am still concerned that we do not have a section in the Bill articulating and codifying a strong harassment offence.
My amendment would make a number of statutory changes. Most notably, I have dropped the words "persistently" and "seriously" to lower the legal bar for victims. I would appreciate the Minister of State's comments on these changes.
The National Observatory on Violence against Women has called for a specific stalking offence, which is the subject matter of amendment No. 17.