News & Media

Coco’s Law must be passed by Christmas

16 September 2020

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Brexit, Northern Ireland and Justice
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Coco’s Law must be passed by Christmas according to Labour Justice Spokesperson Brendan Howlin who is reintroducing his Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill criminalising online harassment to the Dáil this week.

Deputy Howlin accepted a petition from Jackie Fox, mother of Nicole Fox Fenlon calling for ‘Coco’s Law’ named in honour of her daughter Nicole, a young woman who took her own life after being bullied.

Deputy Howlin said:

“This is a very important milestone day for those that have been campaigning to change the law to make cyber bullying a criminal offence, who presented us with a petition of 33,000 signatures calling for Coco’s law to be passed.

“I first introduced this Bill more than three years and unfortunately we did not make the progress we wanted with the previous Minister for Justice. When I reintroduce the Bill tomorrow, as it has been adapted by the Government, it will go directly into Committee. I have spoken with both Minister McEntee and the Chair of the Justice Committee and there is a consensus that we are going to push to have this adopted by Christmas.

“This is a vital piece of legislation. Our harassment laws have not changed since the advent of text messaging and we now live in a very different age in terms of online communication.

“The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 seeks to modernise existing harassment laws to cover modern technology and social media and follows recommendations in the Law Reform Commission's report on Harmful Communications and Digital Strategy.

“The Bill seeks to update existing regulation by broadening the legal definition of communication, so it covers all electronic, written and spoken word, including for example, an iMessage, WhatsApp or Facebook message, and a tweet or social media post.

Deputy Howlin continued:

“I was moved to hear the heart-breaking testimony from the parents of three young women who took their own lives because of persistent online harassment. The Government need to act now to protect victims of online harassment and ensure that this Bill becomes law before Christmas.