Coco’s Law: online bullying legislation set to take late Dubliner’s name

Digital harassment, stalking and revenge porn law likely to be named after Nicole Fox Fenlon

Nicole Fox Fenlon, known as Coco, died in Dublin last year after suffering a campaign of bullying that prompted her mother to campaign for more stringent laws

Nicole Fox Fenlon, known as Coco, died in Dublin last year after suffering a campaign of bullying that prompted her mother to campaign for more stringent laws

 

A new law to crack down on online bullying and harassment is set to be named Coco’s Law after a young woman who took her own life after being bullied. Nicole Fox Fenlon, known as Coco, died in Dublin last year after suffering a campaign of bullying that prompted her mother, Jackie Fox, to campaign for more stringent laws.

The Government agreed on Wednesday to draft legislation proposing a number of new offences including: taking and distributing intimate images without consent; online or digital harassment; a specific offence of stalking; an expanded offence of sending threatening or indecent messages; and “revenge pornography”.

The Labour Party will be tabling amendments to the Bill when it comes before the Dáil to ensure it is named Coco’s Law, as proposed by the Fox family.

The Government had been drafting its own law in this area but instead dropped it in favour of a similar Bill from Mr Howlin.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland has welcomed the move and said some partners and ex-partners used modern technology to monitor and harass women online.

“We cannot effectively tackle violence against women until we recognise women’s right to safely participate in all spaces and until we have mechanisms whereby perpetrators are held accountable and women’s experiences are taken seriously,” a spokeswoman said.

Intimate images

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said it was essential that the law keep pace with social change. “Technology plays an increasing role in all of our lives, and this legislation will address some of the heinous crimes that have emerged in recent times.” 

The Bill proposes to introduce new offences to deal with “revenge pornography”; the taking and distribution of intimate images without consent, whether or not there is intent to cause harm or distress; and harassment to include all forms of communication including through digital communications about another person, he said.

“It also provides for a specific offence of stalking and the expansion of the existing offence of sending threatening or indecent messages.

“These actions have a profoundly distressing and long-lasting impact on the victims, and it is right that they be subject to criminal sanction.”

Mr Flanagan praised Mr Howlin for “working constructively” with the Government to get the law drafted.

Election overtures

Last week The Irish Times revealed Fine Gael Ministers are to step up their attempts to “woo” potential coalition partners such as Labour and the Greens as a general election approaches amid concern that they are being outflanked by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

A private meeting of Fine Gael Ministers and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s senior staff heard suggestions Mr Martin was already building Dáil alliances, with his relationship with Mr Howlin cited.

Labour sources have expressed bemusement at the idea the Government is trying to woo the party by accepting their proposals for legislation. However, senior party figures are keen to capitalise on the situation and they are next planning to pressure Minister for Communications Richard Bruton into legislating for a digital safety commissioner.