The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD has secured Government approval to draft legislation to make stalking and non-fatal strangulation standalone offences.
The new provisions, which will be included in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, will:
Amend section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 to introduce a standalone stalking offence, and amend the existing harassment offence
Empower the courts to issue orders restraining stalking behaviours without a criminal prosecution
Strengthen procedural protections for alleged victims of stalking during the court process
The new stalking offence covers any conduct that either puts the victim in fear of violence or causes the victim serious alarm and distress that has a substantial adverse impact on their usual day-to-day activities.
A wide list of possible acts is included - such as following, communicating, impersonating, interfering with property or pets etc. However, this list is not exhaustive.
The offence can be committed by a single act – it does not need to be persistent or repeated. It also covers situations where the person finds out about some or all of the stalking acts afterwards.
In sentencing, a court must consider as an aggravating factor and increase the sentence if the person has previously been convicted of offences against the victim, such as making threats to kill.
In addition, it is proposed that a court may make an order restraining stalking behaviours separately from a criminal prosecution.