Seanad debates

Friday, 18 December 2020

Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

10:00 am

Barry Ward (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I agree with what the other Senators said. I spoke at length with Deputy Howlin after one of the recent meetings of the Joint Committee on Justice about this matter. I understand that the Department believes that civil and criminal remedies should not be mixed. I do not agree with that. There are many statutes in Ireland that have both criminal offences and civil aspects to them. I agree with Senators Ruane and Doherty that this is a missed opportunity.

These civil orders are much more accessible to many people and do not involve the rigamarole, the proofs and the hoops though which the Garda and the prosecution need to jump to establish criminal convictions. Even as interim measures, these are as important an aspect of the Bill as the criminal offences it creates. If we truly want to pass legislation to address this behaviour and deal with the people who are behaving in this way, this is a tool that should not be denied to the victims of these crimes.

I agree with what Senator Doherty said about Safe Ireland. I suspect it has contacted all Senators. Other organisations mentioned in today's debate have identified that is the case. It is regrettable that what is an administrative decision rather than a justice-based decision has been made that his should not be included in the Bill. I agree with Senator Ruane that if there is to be new legislation, let us bring it forward quickly. We will facilitate it in whatever way we can. Removing these restraints represents a missed opportunity.

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