The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 is a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Deputy Brendan Howlin. The main provisions of the Bill as published include extending the existing offence of sending threatening or indecent messages to apply to all threatening, false, indecent and obscene messages using any form of online or traditional method of communications.
The Bill also proposes extending the existing offence of harassment as contained in section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 to include all forms of communication, including through online or digital communications to or about a person. The Bill will criminalise the distribution of intimate images without consent that causes harm, commonly known as “revenge pornography”.
The Bill completed second stage in the Dáil in January 2018 and was not opposed by Government. I obtained cabinet approval to support Deputy Howlin’s Bill to ensure that legislation in this area can be enacted as swiftly as possible. Draft amendments were prepared in my Department, in consultation with the sponsor of the Bill and cabinet approval was given to the drafting of those amendments on the 1st of May.
I believe that this new legislation will act as a strong deterrent to the abuse of social media usage and, as such, I do not intend to extend the antisocial behaviour orders contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to social media usage.