Shatter says victims of cyber-bullying should talk to gardai
JUSTICE minister Alan Shatter has urged cyber-bullying victims across Ireland to contact the gardai.
In the wake of a number of recent high-profile teen suicides linked to online abuse, Mr Shatter said laws existed to punish those behind such harassment.
"I would urge anyone who is the victim of any kind of bullying, including cyber-bullying, to report it to the gardai," he said.
"I would also urge parents and other family members to support and encourage victims in doing so."
Mr Shatter accepted there were some problems in bringing successful prosecutions against bullies under present legislation, the Non-fatal Offences against the Person Act.
The difficulties involved proving that the harassment was persistent.
Mr Shatter has asked the Law Reform Commission to look at the difficulties and make suggestions for improving the use of the current laws.
Speaking in the Dail, he said his heartfelt sympathies went out to the families involved in a number of recent tragic cases.
Last month, 13-year-old schoolgirl Erin Gallagher, from Ballybofey, Co Donegal, took her own life after being tormented by bullies on the internet and at school.
Just weeks beforehand, 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley, from Dromahair, Co Leitrim, died in similar circumstances.
Mr Shatter said it was also important for parents and teachers to fully understand bullying and be aware of how mobile phones and other technology could be used to intimidate and harass young people.
"I think the law has a role to play and I hope we can increase the effectiveness of our current laws following the deliberations of the Law Reform Commission," he told the Dail.
"But I cannot emphasise enough the importance of constant vigilance by family and teachers and the need to constantly remind young people themselves of the damage that bullying in any form can cause."
Mr Shatter said heightened public awareness of cyber-bullying would help depict it as completely unacceptable, whether in schools, in the workplace