Ireland told to look to Scotland on anti-stalking law

Margaret Martin
Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid

Ireland can look to Scotland to help inform its legislative approach to stalking, a major conference in Dublin was told yesterday.

Scottish campaigner Ann Moulds told delegates at a national conference hosted byWomen’s Aid that Scotland’s anti-stalking legislation, introduced in late 2010, is “probably … one of the most powerful pieces of legislation out there”.

Section 39 of Scotland’s Criminal Justice and Licensing Act 2010 made stalking a criminal offence for the first time from December 2010. There is no specific stalking offence in Irish law.

Following the introduction of the Scottish law, police officers across the country were given special training on dealing with stalking crime.

Ms Moulds called on the Government of Ireland to introduce legislation that would give similar protection to Irish victims of stalking – including online stalking and harassment.

Women’s Aid last month launched a “manifesto on domestic violence” in advance of next year’s general election, which includes calls for legislative action on stalking, both “traditional and online”.

It recommends the creation of a specific stalking offence, which would also apply to online stalking.

Another measure proposed by the agency is an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act to provide for emergency barring orders, as well as extending eligibility to women in dating relationships.

The agency said the Government needed “to recognise that abuse can feature within all intimate relationships” and “make safety orders available to women who have never lived with their boyfriends”.

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, said at the time: “In our experience, the definition of harassment in law is complex and hard to prove, and rarely used to protect women who are stalked by their boyfriends or exes.

“Women’s Aid recommends that a specific stalking offence be introduced in Irish law, with a comprehensive but not exhaustive definition, including new forms of cyber-stalking, as well as recognition of stalking as grounds for a safety order.”

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