Government approves new standalone stalking offence Bill
It's hoped that the new Bill will offer more protection to victims.
The Irish Government has approved the Criminal Justice Bill, which makes stalking a standalone offence.
The Bill will allow victims of stalking behaviour to issue civil restraining orders without a criminal prosecution. This, as Minister for Justice Helen McEntee notes, will facilitate earlier interventions and would better protect victims.
The Criminal Justice Bill also expands the current harassment offence, doubles the maximum sentence for assault causing harm to 10 years, introduces life sentences for conspiracy to murder and makes non-fatal strangulation a standalone offence.
As Breaking News reports, it's understood that the Criminal Justice Bill will become law in Autumn.
Minister McEntee spoke about the "devastating psychological distress" stalking causes its victims, and how standalone stalking legislation leads to greater awareness of the crime and ultimately more prosecutions.
She said: "The evidence is that when a specific stalking offence is introduced, it leads to a greater awareness of the crime and an increase in the number of crimes reported and ultimately prosecuted – so we are doing that."
She continued: "But this legislation also includes an important system of civil orders to restrain stalking behaviour and protect victims. These orders allow earlier intervention and do not require a criminal prosecution.
"The new orders also go further than what is possible under domestic violence legislation in terms of who an order can be made against (not just close relationships) and the kind of conduct that can be prohibited by the court."
Minister McEntee noted how the introduction of a standalone offence for non-fatal strangulation followed a request from the Garda Commissioner.
She said: "Non-fatal strangulation is a common feature of domestic abuse and is a strong predictor of further violent offences. It can also be difficult to prosecute at an appropriate level of seriousness where there is no visible injury.
"The Garda Commissioner has specifically requested the introduction of a new offence, and it also reflects recent international practice. This proposal will help ensure that assaults involving strangulation are properly identified, charged and punished."
If you have been affected affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact Women's Aid 24/7 on 1800 341 900.
Feature image: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie