Since 2017 the Labour Party has campaigned to update our laws to make online harassment and bullying a criminal offence, and to also make so called ‘revenge porn’ properly known as image based sexual abuse a crime.

Our laws have not stayed up to date with the huge changes in technology and social media, but now our long running campaign has huge momentum to finally bring through Coco’s Law which is named in honour of Nicole Fox Fenlon who took her own life after being bullied. 
The bill from Brendan Howlin is now being supported by the government and amendments are being taken on Tuesday 1st December at Committee stage. With all party agreement we want to have the Bill passed before the end of the year.
Women are too often the targets of online abuse, and this Bill will protect them by creating a new offence of distributing an intimate image without consent. This has been an offence in the UK since 2015 and hundreds of people have been prosecuted. Ireland has to catch up.
Too many vulnerable people both young and old are affected by online harm bullying and harassment. That private intimate images of young people can be shared online is totally unacceptable.
Together we can finally change the law. Thank you for your support.

 

WATCH – Jackie Fox who has campaigned for this bill in honour of her daughter Nicole tell us why this must become law.
Key features of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill
1.    Communications.
The Bill adopts the broadest possible definition to mean the communication of information by any means, including:-
  • communication by spoken words, other audible means, behaviour, writing, sign or visible representation, and
  • the communication of information that is generated, processed, transmitted, received, recorded, stored or displayed by electronic means or in electronic form.
 
2.    Harrassment.
The offence of harassment is currently found in the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. The new version provides that a person who, intentionally or recklessly and without lawful authority or reasonable excuse:-
  • persistently follows, watches, pesters or besets another person, or
  • persistently communicates with another person, or
  • persistently communicates with a third person about another person,
is guilty of harassment if those acts seriously interfere with the peace and privacy of the victim or cause alarm, distress or harm to the victim.
The punishment is a Class A fine or imprisonment for 12 months or, on conviction on indictment, to a fine or 7 years.
 
3.    Stalking.
If the defendant’s acts both seriously interfered with the victim’s peace and privacy and caused the victim alarm, distress or harm, the court may take that into account as an aggravating factor.
If the defendant and the victim were in an intimate relationship and, in the course of or for the purposes of committing the offence:-
  • the defendant made use of personal information about the victim, or
  • the defendant made use of an electronic device or software in order to monitor, observe, listen to or make a recording of the victim or his or her movements, activities and communications, without the victim’s knowledge and consent,
the court may take that fact into account as an aggravating factor.
 
4.    Intimate images.
The Bill creates a new of offence of distributing an intimate image without consent – what is commonly referred to as revenge porn.
A person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse –
  • takes, distributes or publishes, or threatens to do so, an intimate image of another person without consent, and
  • by his or her acts seriously interferes with the peace and privacy of the other person or causes alarm, distress or harm,
is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a Class A fine or to imprisonment for 6 months or both.
 
5.    Prohibited messages.
The Bill provides that a person who:-
  • with intent to cause alarm, distress or harm, or recklessly, or
  • persistently,
distributes or publishes a threatening, false, indecent or obscene message to or about another person is guilty of an offence.
The offence is punishable on summary conviction by a Class A fine or imprisonment for 12 months or both and, on conviction on indictment by an unlimited fine or imprisonment for 7 years, or both.
This replaces section 13 of the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951.
 
Additional notes:
Children.
The Bill states that criminal proceedings against someone under the age of 17 may not be taken except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Privacy of victims.
The Bill provides for the protection of the identity of victims, broadly modelled on reporting restrictions in the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981.
Restraint orders.
The Bill provides for civil restraint orders. The Circuit Court may order that a person shall not, for a specified period, communicate with or about a named person, or approach the place of residence or employment of a named person.
This is based on the comparable powers in the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997.
Saver for constitutional rights.
The Bill makes it clear that it is not to be interpreted as altering the law so as to prohibit or unduly restrict the exercise of the rights of peaceable assembly or peaceful picketing, or any other constitutional right.