Dáil Éireann - Volume 502 - 23 March, 1999

Written Answers. - Internet Usage.

539. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans, if any, he has to introduce legislation against on-line stalking and harassment. [8121/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The problem of controlling on-line illegal activities, particularly those involving the Internet, gives rise to a wide range of complex legal, technical and enforcement issues. Many of these issues were described in the report of the working group on the illegal and harmful use of the Internet which was published last year. While legislation specific to the Internet is not always warranted, every effort is made as new legislation is being developed to ensure it applies to illegal activities in an on-line environment.

The Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act, 1997, introduced criminal sanctions for persons found guilty of the offence of harassment which is aimed at what is commonly called “stalking”. This new offence created by the 1997 Act carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. A person will be guilty of this offence if he or she by any means. harasses another by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with the victim.

The court is also empowered under this legislation to order the stalker not to communicate in any way with the victim for such period as may be specified by the court. Breach of such a court order will be an offence and the maximum penalty here is also seven years imprisonment.

[768] I have no plans at present to review the law in relation to harassment.