Law reform to tackle cyberbullying

Thu, Nov 8, 2012, 00:00

The Law Reform Commission has been asked by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to examine difficulties in prosecuting for cyberbullying.

Mr Shatter told the Dáil bullying was a form of harassment and, as such, fell within the provision of the non-fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. However, he had been made aware of difficulties in bringing successful prosecutions, especially relating to the need to demonstrate persistence in the harassment.

“I have asked the Law Reform Commission to examine this difficulty,” he said. “I understand that the issue has already been examined elsewhere, including in Scotland and Australia, and I hope that we can learn from other jurisdictions.”

Mr Shatter said he was aware of growing public concern about the issue, especially after a number of recent tragic cases. Heightened public awareness could only contribute to a recognition that such behaviour was unacceptable in schools, in the workplace or any other place.

‘Already too late’ for some

The Minister was replying to Michael McCarthy (Labour), who said he was raising the issue because of the tragic events of recent weeks.

“Any future action in this area is already too late for the two young teenagers who were victims, in the true sense of the word, of horrifying instances of cyberbullying,” he said.

Mr McCarthy said there was a need for explicit legislation covering that area. “I accept that it is impossible to eliminate this type of activity entirely – we must be practical and realistic – but there is an onus on us to put measures in place that will at least begin the fight-back against this absolutely appalling and despicable activity.”

Mr McCarthy said the popularity of social media websites in recent years had the unfortunate consequence of an increase in cyberbullying.