STALKING has been made a standalone criminal offence in Ireland which carries a sentence of up to ten years.
The move, which took affect on November 1, was implemented by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee within a range of new criminal offences that come into effect this week.
The offences include measures targeting violent and organised crime, violence against Gardaí and other emergency service workers, and to punish perpetrators of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
Tougher sentences for existing offences also came into effect yesterday, with Ms McEntee explaining that the move marks a milestone in the Government’s efforts to “build stronger, safer communities and have zero tolerance of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence”.
Minister McEntee’s Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023, sees the maximum sentence for assault causing harm increase from five years to ten years
The scope of Ireland’s existing harassment offence is also widened to include any conduct that seriously interferes with a person’s peace and privacy, or causes alarm, distress or harm.
A new standalone offence of stalking, with a maximum sentence of up to ten years, has been created.
A standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation, with a maximum sentence of up to ten years, and a standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation causing serious harm, with a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment, have also been created.
The maximum sentence for assaulting or threatening to assault a Garda or other on duty emergency workers has increased from seven to 12 years.
And the maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder increases from the current penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment, in a bid to further toughen the laws around gangland crime
“The commencement of this Act is an important milestone and underlines this Government’s commitment to building stronger, safer communities,” Ms McEntee said.
“This means tackling gangland criminals, ensuring our Gardaí and emergency workers are supported in the work they do and having Zero Tolerance for domestic, sexual and gender based violence.”
She added: “Increasing the maximum sentence for assault causing harm will provide the Courts with a tougher range of sentences to take account of the range and gravity of the assaults that fall under this category.
“We know this is one of the most common crimes in domestic violence cases and that is why we wanted to send a clear message that it will not be tolerated.
“Introducing new standalone offences for stalking and strangling are also significant in this regard as both of these offences are unfortunately common ways abusers assault victims.
“It has been shown that non-fatal strangulation can be an indication of future, lethal violence and is a risk factor for homicides against women in the home.
“While choking and strangling are already illegal, it is my hope that this new offence will encourage victims to come forward and report what has happened to them,” she added.
“Similarly, while stalking is already illegal, we are creating a standalone offence, defined in terms of causing either a fear of violence, or serious alarm and distress that has a substantial impact on a person’s day to day activities.”