Written Answers - Public Order Offences

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 725 No. 2

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  160.  Deputy Noel Ahern  Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern   asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   the legislation that covers the area of verbal abuse and harassment; if there are any penalties for persons responsible for the repeated verbal harassment of their neighbours; if any specific provision exists within this legislation for persons who make fun of persons with physical and or intellectual disabilities; the penalties for such behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47576/10]

Minister for Justice and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 provides for the offence of harassment. Subsections (1) and (2) states:

While there is no specific reference to neighbours or persons with disabilities, it is clear that the legislation addresses any person harassing another.

[502]Summary conviction for the offence carries a penalty of a fine of up to £1,500 (€1905) and or 12 months imprisonment. A person convicted on indictment is liable to an unlimited fine an or seven years imprisonment.

A court may also order a person convicted of the offence not to communicate with or approach their victim. Even in circumstances where a person is not found guilty of the offence a court is empowered to may make such an order if it is in the interests of justice to do so.

The Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides another means by which harassment as a form of anti-social behaviour may be tackled. Part 11 deals with such behaviour by adults while Part 13 deals with the arrangements for children between 12 and 18 years. In both cases, the process begins with a warning to desist, issued by a Garda. That is followed by a number of steps before a court order (commonly called an anti-social behaviour order) is sought. Breach of the court order is a criminal offence punishable on conviction in the case of an adult, by a fine not exceeding €3,000 and/or a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months and, in the case of a child, by a fine not exceeding €800 and/or detention in a children detention school not exceeding 3 months.

Any such harassment as outlined by the Deputy in his question is reprehensible and should be reported to the Garda Síochána. A person suffering such harassment from neighbours could also seek advice as to the civil remedies in damages and injunctive relief which may be available in the circumstances.

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