THE MINISTER for Justice has announced that she will introduce legislation to make stalking and non-fatal strangulation a crime.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Wednesday 20 January, Helen McEntee TD spoke about how violence against women is a spectrum and solutions need to be wide and varied.
"The solutions will not come from legislation alone, nor can we tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence simply by treating it as a criminal justice issue," she said.
"What is required is societal and cultural change. We have failed, quite simply, if we allow ourselves to get to a situation where some men develop such unhealthy attitudes towards women that it leads them to commit these types of crimes and end up in the criminal justice system.
McEntee will lead the development of the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, with input from several governmental departments.
As part of the strategy, she said legislation will be published before Easter to strengthen laws against stalking.
"The act of stalking is already covered by existing law, but I will propose the following changes to make the law even clearer and stronger," she said.
"We will explicitly reference stalking as a criminal offence. I will make it clear that stalking includes watching or following a person, even if the person does not know that he or she is being watched or followed. I will also make it clear that impersonating the victim and then contacting a third person is illegal."
The law will also be updated to ensure that it covers all forms of communication, and the introduction of a provision to allow a victim to apply to the court for an order to prevent an alleged perpetrator from contacting him or her before the trial will also be considered.
McEntee also thanked Eve McDowell and Una Ring, creators of Stalking Ireland who have campaigned for greater legislative powers in cases of stalking.
— Stalking Ireland (@Stalking_ie) January 19, 2022
While choking and strangulation are already illegal, "creating a new offence will encourage victims to come forward and report what has happened to them," McEntee said.
"It has been shown that this crime can be an indication of future lethal violence and, in particular, is a risk factor in the context of homicides of women in their own homes."
A new sexual offences Bill will also be introduced before the end of September, which will introduce legal representation for victims and extend victim anonymity to further categories of victims.
Minister McEntee began speaking in the Dáil by extending her sympathies to the family, friends and boyfriend of Ashling Murphy.
"In Ashling, we see our sisters, our daughters and our mothers," she said. "In her family, we see our own, and as women, we see ourselves. We can all put ourselves in Ashling's position and in her shoes. While we might not be runners we all put ourselves in a position where we are out walking or taking exercise and for something like this to happen is shocking."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin similarly paid his respects to Ms Murphy:
"On behalf of everyone in the Government and everyone in this House, I wish to convey my profound sympathy and sorrow again to Ashling's family, her partner, her friends, her colleagues, her pupils and to the wider community in which she played such an active part," he said.
"As a society, we have learned something of Ashling's life over the past week, a life which was evidently so rich and full of accomplishments. I am so sorry that this happened to the Murphy family and that this dark moment in Ireland's history has taken this vivacious and creative young woman from them. May Ashling rest in peace."