Check against delivery 

 

15 May 2017 

 

I would like to welcome everyone to today’s launch of the report of the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development's (ACJRD) 2016 Annual Conference on the theme of Cybercrime. 

The Association performs a key role in bringing together officials, academics and legal practitioners in the field of criminal justice and affording them an open space for the discussion of key policy issues in this area. 

The work of the Association in looking at the topic of cybercrime is very timely and the various papers contained in the report provide very useful food for thought for all of us working in this area.  

The worldwide malware attacks over the weekend have brought into sharp focus the importance of cyber security and the ability of our State’s IT infrastructure to protect against such attacks. 

Everyone – citizens, employers and State authorities – have taken notice of this weekend’s unprecedented attacks. Our task is to ensure that everyone continues to take notice of cybercrime in their everyday approach to risk assessment.  

In terms of the Government’s response, Minister Naughten has stated that the National Cyber Security Centre continues to actively monitor the situation, and to engage with entities across Government and the private sector in terms of managing the response to this malware. The situation is still evolving, but international contacts are ongoing and more clarity is becoming available on an hourly basis as to how this malware propagates and how it can be dealt with.  

Modern communications and information technology play such a significant role in our everyday lives. Its use permeates all aspects of our day-to-day dealings - with each other on a personal level, with the State in carrying out its functions and in our business activities.  

We all recognise that the cyber agenda as it has emerged in recent years, both dynamic and multifaceted in nature, brings with it many challenges. 

Its influence is now a feature across many of our policy portfolios including – the crime and security response and data protection and privacy initiatives. It has spawned significant new areas of international policy work such as the Digital Single Market initiatives at EU level and the broader international cyber diplomacy portfolio. 

We now have multiple work streams within the international fora, which are grappling with the fundamental questions around criminal justice in cyber space. Looking at complex issues such as our response to encryption; the question of whether the long standing international mutual legal assistance mechanisms can deal with the challenges of E-Evidence - how we go about gathering evidence in circumstances where our traditional jurisdictional rules no longer define location, raises many practical challenges which must be addressed. 

We all appreciate the tension that exists between the legitimate desire to protect online freedom and data privacy on the one hand and the equally legitimate need for states’ law enforcement services to have access to related data in combating crime and protecting life. 

There is no simple solution - workable solutions must be found which facilitate collaboration and cooperation across the sectors and this is particularly relevant in view of the new EU data protection regime, which will be with us from next year. 

The cyber agenda permeates the work of Government across a range of areas, but I would like to take the opportunity to highlight a couple of recent developments with regard to the legislative response under my remit.  

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging piece of sexual offences legislation to be introduced in Ireland in almost a decade.  

The Act contains measures which strengthen existing law in the area of child pornography as well as new offences targeting child sexual grooming which focus on those who use modern technologies to engage with children with the purpose ultimately of sexually exploiting those children. The Act also addresses the use of modern communication technologies in the grooming and exploitation of children. 

I am also pleased to report that the Criminal Justice (Offences Relating to Information Systems) Bill, which is currently making its way through the Oireachtas, is designed to protect information systems and their data. This is the first piece of legislation in this jurisdiction specifically dedicated to dealing with cybercrime. 

The Bill gives effect to an EU Directive on attacks against information systems and ensures that Ireland can stand alongside our European partners in combating criminality in this area and protecting vital infrastructures. By strengthening and harmonising our laws across Europe and beyond, we present a united front against cybercrime and counter its transnational dimension. 

I should also mention that this legislation implements key elements of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which has been signed by Ireland. It is intended that any elements of the Convention not already covered under Irish law will be covered in a proposed Cybercrime Bill, which is on the Government’s Legislation Programme. 

The Law Reform Commission, in their report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety have addressed the wider context within which law reform in the area of digital communications should be tackled. The Law Reform Commission, while finding that existing criminal law already addresses some aspects of modern harmful communications, identifies gaps in the criminal law that require reform. 

I believe it is crucially important that we modernise our laws so that they can deal effectively with phenomena such as so-called revenge pornography and the publication of voyeuristic material without consent. These acts can cause serious and lasting harm, particularly to young people.  

In December last year, I received Government approval for the drafting of a General Scheme of a Bill which would provide for new and amended criminal offences along the lines set out in that report. Drafting of the General Scheme is underway in the Department and it is intended that the Bill will: 

Strengthen the offence of harassment under Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.  

Create a new offence of stalking.  

In addition, two new offences will be created which will apply to once-off digital communications: 

· One will be an offence of distributing or publishing, by any means, an intimate image of another person without that person’s consent, intentionally or recklessly causing harm to the person. This is intended to deal with so-called revenge pornography incidents. 

· The other offence will deal with behaviour that falls short of the intentional and egregious activity covered by the first offence, and covers the non-consensual taking and distribution of intimate images. This less serious offence will cover new forms of voyeurism online. 

These are just some of the legislative initiatives that are underway alongside the ongoing initiatives to develop our cyber response capacity.  

I would like to close by again acknowledging the valuable work of the Association. 

I look forward to learning about the outcome of your workshop on White-Collar Crime, which follows this report launch.