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New Laws

Stalking is now a standalone offence and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison

A range of new criminal offences, as well as tougher sentences for existing offences, come into effect from today.

STANDALONE OFFENCES FOR stalking and non-fatal strangulation come into effect from today, while sentences for some existing offences have increased. 

The offences include violence against Gardaí and other emergency service workers, as well as measures to support victims and punish perpetrators of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee secured Government approval for the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 in August.

She said the new laws and increase in sentences “underlines this Government’s commitment to building stronger, safer communities”.  

From today, a standalone offence of stalking carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison. A standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years has also come into effect. 

A standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation causing serious harm with a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment has also been created. 

Meanwhile, the maximum sentence for assault causing harm (the charge most commonly used in domestic abuse cases) has doubled from five years to 10 years.

The scope of the existing harassment offence has been widened to include any conduct that seriously interferes with a person’s peace and privacy, or causes alarm, distress or harm

The Act also introduces a range of provisions aimed at providing better protection for Gardaí and strengthening the existing laws designed to tackle serious and organised crime.

The maximum sentence for assaulting or threatening to assault a Garda or other on-duty emergency workers, such as hospital staff, prison officers, members of the fire brigade, ambulance personnel or Defence Forces members, increases from seven years to 12 years.

The maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder, which has been set at 10 years since 1861, has increased to life imprisonment. The sentence is used when two or more people form a plan to murder another person but are stopped before they can carry it out. 

Minister McEntee said 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,” she said.

“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.”

McEntee said 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 continued.

“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.

“All of these changes fulfil the commitments I made in Zero Tolerance plan, the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, and Supporting a Victim’s Journey, which was published last year.”

She also said that ensuring the safety of Gardaí and all other frontline workers “has been one of my main priorities”. 

“On too many occasions in recent years we have seen Gardaí, hospital staff, members of the fire brigade and many other frontline workers assaulted as they go about their business protecting people and communities,” she said.

“Increasing the maximum sentence for such crimes will be an important deterrent and also clearly communicates the gravity of such crimes.”

The National Women’s Council (NWC) has strongly welcomed the tougher sentences and standalone offences.

Ivanna Youtchak, the NWC’s Violence Against Women Programme Coordinator, said: “Women everywhere deserve to live a life free from male violence. Not only are offences such as these egregious, but they are often indicators of a broader pattern of violent behaviour towards women.

“The new legislation which will come into effect today, sends an important message to society that these forms of abuse constitute serious crimes and will not be tolerated,” she said.

“It is really positive to see Minister McEntee continue to take a strong stand on violence against women.”

According to Women’s Aid Femicide Watch, 12 women died violently in the Republic of Ireland last year.

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