A Donegal Deputy has backed his party’s plans to make cyber-bullying a criminal offence.
Deputy Brian O Domhnaill says he is fully behind Fianna Fail’s proposals to bring in legislation on the issue of online crimes.
“Unfortunately in Donegal we have witnessed first hand the devastating effects of cyber-bullying.
“Its important that the issue is addressed by protecting individuals, especially our county’s young people from the devastating effects of these on-line actions,” he told Donegal Daily.
Fianna Fáil is proposing a major shift in the law to protect people, particularly children, from cyber-bullying.
Under new legislation from Fianna Fáil it will be offence to engage in cyber-bullying and it will also be an offence to assist it or encourage it.
This would be the first time the offence of cyber-bullying would be defined in Irish law.
Deputy Robert Troy, FF’s Spokesman on Children said so far cyber-bullying has only had consequences for the victims but now is the time to make sure there are consequences for the perpetrators too.
“A report by the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shannon has said the growth of cyber-bullying has “almost overnight created a readily accessible forum for bullies to target children with little or no regulation or sanction.”
“Cyber-bullying and the emergence of online hate campaigns are a major issue, particularly for teenagers at the moment, and we need a strong basis in law to help tackle it. The recent tragic deaths of a number of children who were allegedly the victims of cyber-bullying underscore the need to address this for the health and wellbeing of young people.
“A recent survey found that incidences of cyber-bullying among Irish teenagers were among the highest in among 26 European countries surveyed. Cyber-bullying is carried out by text, picture or video-clip, phone calls, emails, on social media, in chat rooms and through instant messaging. Our Bill makes cyber-bullying a specific offence for the first time in Irish law. It makes provision for parents to attend mandatory parenting courses and only provides for criminal prosecution when a parent continuously and knowingly permits cyber bullying by their child.
“The legislation states that parents will be deemed to have committed an offence where they know cyber-bullying is taking place and they don’t take any steps to stop it from continuing. Any parents found guilty of cyber-bullying would initially be required to engage with parenting courses but in serious and persistent cases people could face a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to €20,000 or both. It’s important to say however that any trials of under 18’s would be dealt with in the Children’s Court.
“There is a balance to be struck in how we deal with cyber-bullying. Awareness campaigns and better education are an essential part of that but I believe strong sanctions are needed as well to act as a deterrent. Failing to tackle this issue head-on will only result in more distress for the people who are targeted by bullies.”