This is the opening statement from An Garda Síochána to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. The report entitled The Future of Policing in Ireland provides a roadmap for an improved policing service in Ireland. This report identified that cybercrime and Internet-enabled crimes are proliferating fast and that Ireland is not alone in struggling to deal with the threat and that tackling cybercrime must be regarded as a core function of policing. A central tenet of the report on the future of policing in Ireland is that policing is not something the police do alone. Likewise, the solution to tackling online harassment, harmful communications and related offences will require the involvement of multiple stakeholders across various Departments, An Garda Síochána and society in general, including parents, schools and employers.
The recent roll-out of the new operating model will enhance the investigation of crime through the delivery of a greater range of specialised services in local areas, such as the investigation of sexual crime, domestic violence, cybercrime, and economic crime. Each division will be provided with a detective superintendent who, along with trained investigators in specialist areas, will be responsible for local crime investigation. Complex or highly technical crimes will generally be dealt with at national level. This initiative will see the establishment of regional cybercrime hubs and trained first responders, who will support the regional units and provide for a tiered level of capability nationally, with the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau, GNCCB, as the top tier of support and capability.
The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau was established in September 2016, providing an enhanced structure within An Garda Síochána for the purpose of tackling cybercrime. The bureau has a national remit with regard to the phenomenon of cybercrime, and in particular, the investigation of online criminality. The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau is tasked with undertaking the forensic examination of computer media in all incidents reported to the Garda Síochána. The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau is currently supported by two regional pilot units, one based in New Ross Garda station, County Wexford, and the other in Ballincollig, County Cork. The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau, in conjunction with the Garda College, has developed a training module relating to the investigation of cybercrime for delivery to all students attending the college. It is planned that other members of the Garda Síochána will be trained in cybercrime awareness and cybercrime investigation through our continuous professional development network.
An Garda Síochána will further its long-standing relationship with the centre for cybersecurity and cybercrime investigation in University College Dublin through the GNCCB and alumni who have undertaken courses of study at the university in the cyberdomain. The Garda Síochána will also develop more educational partnerships with third level institutions and international institutions with expertise in cybersecurity in order to ensure cutting-edge support is available throughout the organisation. The Garda National Protective Services Bureau, GNPSB, was established in 2015 and is a specialist team dedicated to making sure each and every complaint relating to child protection, human trafficking and domestic and sexual violence is thoroughly investigated and that such investigations are handled in an appropriate manner. In addition, the GNPSB is responsible for working with other agencies to manage sex offenders in the interest of community safety.
Increasingly, children are engaging in the sharing of self-taken imagery where they send nude or sexually explicit or both personal photographs of one another to other members of a chat group, utilising platforms such as WhatsApp or Instagram, or over social media such as Facebook or Snapchat. While this scenario has given rise to a form of bullying, there is an added danger when images are circulated outside the confines of friends or otherwise become available to third parties, who may then use them as a trap to engage with a child or set up fake profiles, using the images as bait. In 2015, the Garda Síochána established 28 victim service offices across the country which are tasked with communicating with victims of crime and prioritising their needs. Protective service units, which will operate within each Garda Síochána division, will assist in ensuring that relevant child protection, domestic and sexual violence incidents are thoroughly investigated and victims fully supported.
Any individual, adult or child, business or organisation, using a connected device is vulnerable to cybercrime. Just as with offline crime, simple steps can often be effective in reducing these vulnerabilities. Working in partnership with public and private sector stakeholders, An Garda Síochána will use opportunities such as the Garda Síochána’s communication channels, "Crimecall", public awareness campaigns and industry liaison to ensure people are educated on protecting themselves from cybercrime. The investigation of all the relevant incidents and the examination of associated computer media is dependent on the disclosure of a criminal offence. In cases involving the online safety of our young people, the primary offences are cyberbullying and sexual exploitation. In this regard, the relevant legislative provisions are contained in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
The Garda schools programme is currently being updated. The Garda is working in partnership with Webwise to create modules within the Garda schools programme to be delivered to all primary and second level schools nationally, to include subjects such as cyberbullying, online harassment, consent and image sharing. The "Be in Ctrl" programme was launched in 2018. It is delivered to junior cycle second level students nationally. It gives students the opportunity to recognise and understand online sexual coercion and extortion and will give them the information on how to deal with and report these incidents. Three new modules are currently being created by Webwise and An Garda Síochána and are expected to be rolled out in 2020. These would deal with cyberbullying and online harassment in primary school, the impact of cyberbullying and online harassment and the harm and legal consequences that image sharing has. It encourages students on how to act responsibly when they encounter intimate content. This is for both the junior and the senior cycle.
A new information and education resource called "Lockers" has been designed, in conjunction with the Garda Síochána, to assist schools in coping with and preventing the sharing of explicit self-generated images of minors. Intended for use within the junior cycle social, personal and health education curriculum, "Lockers" is supported by a newly developed animation and six lesson plans, and includes an information section for school leaders. This 25-page section informs principals on the context for sexting among young people, the laws that can come into effect when underage sexting occurs and the implications for school policy. An Garda Síochána will continue to develop its capacity and capability to tackle online harassment, harmful communications and related offences, and in this regard will interact in an appropriate manner with all relevant stakeholders.