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Question

9. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to revise harassment laws here taking into consideration the impact of cyberbullying on the mental health of a person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20940/19]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, I recently obtained approval to formally draft amendments to the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017, a Private Member's Bill sponsored by Deputy Brendan Howlin. I intend to bring forward a number of Government amendments to strengthen the provisions of the Bill and to ensure that it will be as effective as possible. I have worked closely with Deputy Howlin on these amendments and I look forward to introducing them at Committee Stage as soon as they are drafted.
The aim of the Bill is to tackle certain behaviours that have become more prevalent online in the last number of years. The Bill will introduce two new offences for the first time to tackle the distribution of intimate images without consent, commonly referred to as "revenge pornography" and "upskirting". The Bill will also extend the offence of sending a threatening, false, indecent or obscene message to cover messages sent by any means of communication.
In relation to harassment, the Bill will extend the current offence of harassment contained in section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 to include all forms of communication to or about another person. I also intend to introduce a distinct offence of stalking, which will cover stalking online and offline.
I appreciate the significant impact that harassment, both online and offline, can have on the mental health of a victim. That is why I am committed to working with my cabinet colleagues to address online harm through the National Action Plan for Online Safety, 2018-2019, a whole of Government approach that sets out in a coherent way the actions that are being undertaken across all Departments and Agencies to protect children and adults in their online engagement. Question No. 10 answered orally.