Call for new cyber-bullying laws
THE law reform watchdog is carrying out a review of Ireland's harassment laws amid calls to bolster cyber-bullying prosecutions.
The Law Reform Commission (LRC) review comes as special rapporteur on child protection, Geoffrey Shannon, says cyber-specific laws are needed to deal with online bullying and to protect the anonymity of victims who take court action.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has previously said that existing laws against harassment, which carry prison terms of up to seven years, were suitable to prosecute cyber-bullying.
But he has asked the commission to review whether the law needs to be changed.
The commission is examining, as part of its review of domestic violence laws, whether the need to show "persistence" in the context of harassment needs to be removed and this may have a knock-on impact on cyber-bullying prosecutions.
Mr Shannon, whose term as sole special rapporteur has been renewed for another three years, has also called for UK-style Education Supervision Orders (ESOs) to address child truancy and for homophobic bullying in schools to be classified as a child-protection issue.
Mr Shannon said that the recent suicides of three Irish teenagers, who were alleged victims of cyber-bullying, has prompted calls for urgent legislation to address what he described as "this apparent epidemic" confronting young people.
The Government has previously rejected an amendment extending the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007 – which deals with telephones – to include cyber-bullying. This is because it is already an offence to harass a person by use of "any means", including by telephone.