102. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he has taken in respect of each of the recommendations relevant to his Department made by the Law Reform Commission’s Report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety. [24115/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I can assure the Deputy that the Government recognises the importance of integrated actions across all relevant Departments to address online safety.
In March, Minister Naughten hosted an Open Policy Debate with a wide range of stakeholders to consider future actions in this area, including matters addressed in the Law Reform Commission Report. On foot of this, all relevant Government Departments with responsibility in this area are working together to develop a whole of Government approach in the form of an integrated Action Plan, and this work is being taken forward under the auspices of the relevant Cabinet Committee.
As Minister for Justice, my primary responsibility in this area relates to the development of effective responses under the criminal law and my Department has been working to bring forward additional legislation on foot of the LRC recommendations in this regard. However, I have recently accepted a Labour Party Private Member's Bill aimed at progressing these issues, along broadly similar lines to the legislation that was in the course of being drafted in my Department. Deputy Howlin's "Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill" completed second stage in the Dáil in January 2018 and was not opposed by Government. The main provisions of the Bill as published include:
- A new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images with/without intent to cause harm or distress (generally referred to as “revenge pornography”).
- The existing offence of sending threatening or indecent messages will be extended to apply to all threatening, false indecent and obscene messages using any form of online or traditional method of communications.
- The existing offence of harassment will be extended to include all forms of communication, including through online or digital communications.
My officials will be meeting with Deputy Howlin in the coming weeks with the intention of bringing forward Government amendments to ensure the Bill is legally effective.
As Minister for Justice I am committed to working with colleagues across politics to ensure that we make rapid progress and enact legislation in line with these LRC recommendations at the earliest opportunity.