Leaving the law of harassment unchanged will leave women and children at risk of being attacked or harmed, Women’s Aid has warned.
A report by the Law Reform Commission, published today, recommends that the current law dealing with harassment is sufficient to deal with stalking in domestic violence cases.
However, Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin is unhappy with the commission’s conclusion.
“It is problematic and will leave women and children vulnerable,” she said.
“Stalking often escalates after separation and it is included in many domestic violence risk assessment tools as a high risk factor.”
In practice, the definition of harassment in Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 was complex and hard to prove, Ms Martin pointed out. “In the experience of Women’s Aid, this provision is rarely used to protect women who are stalked by their partners.”
Ms Martin said she was looking forward to reading the report.
The commission had been asked to consider whether the offence of harassment in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 sufficiently addressed the problem of stalking in domestic violence cases. It said a person could be convicted of harassment where stalking involved a single long episode of continuous following or pestering.
However, the report on aspects of domestic violence said the use of social media to post fake or misleading information and other forms of cyberbullying might not come under the law of harassment. It said such issues should be examined as part of its recently launched fourth programme of law reform.
Safe Ireland, which has not seen the report, said research it was undertaking showed the legal system was consistently failing women seeking protection for themselves and children from violent perpetrators.
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