Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022
Free Speech Ireland would like to establish our position on the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 and raise our concerns over the risk that this bill poses to people’s right to freedom of expression. We are concerned that ill-defined and unclear aspects of the bill will result in limitations being placed on people’s right to freedom of expression and that this is an unproductive use of Garda resources. We would like to draw the attention of Irish legislators to Sections 7 through 11 in particular.
Section 7: Establishes that a person may be found guilty of an offence if the person “communicates material to the public or a section of the public” . This not only opens an individual to prosecution for personal statements made, but also for the sharing of content on social media, even if published by another user in a separate country or jurisdiction. Part 3 of this section states that “it shall be a defence to prove that the material concerned or, insofar as appropriate,” if the contribution is considered “genuine” or “reasonable”. These are vague and subjective criteria that may see an individual fined or imprisoned for up to 5 years.
Section 8: Broadly covers the communication of material relating to genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Similarly however, Section 8 fails to make provisions for the sharing of material published by another individual or entity. It opens a person to prosecution for sharing of historical articles or news items that may not reflect the contemporary views of Irish society. Furthermore this could also affect the communication of material from a foreign culture or country where world views may differ to our own.
Section 9: Under this section a person may be found guilty irrespective of whether communication of material or behaviour was successful in inciting another person to violence or hatred. This would penalise individuals as a result of gross speculation.
Section 10: The possession of material which is not considered “reasonable” or a “genuine contribution” shall be an offence. As with Section 7, these are subjective criteria and are deeply concerning as the bill does not establish what is considered a “reasonable” or “genuine contribution”. It is vital that lawful expression is not restricted by the Government.
Section 11: There is a concerning limited and ill-defined “Protection Of Freedom Of Expression” afforded by the bill in Section 11. This section is no more than four lines, and does not establish clear protections for Freedom of Speech.
Conclusion: We recommend that legislators reject the bill in its current form. Irish legislators should take steps to expand protections against harassment rather than broadly restrict the speech of all individuals.
The Irish government has published the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 as of the 27th October 2022, with full intention to pass the legislation by end of year.
It is imperative that you contact your local TD and ask them to vote against this bill.
If you reside in Meath East please find the contact details of your local TD’s below:
Free Speech Ireland Spokesperson Sarah Hardiman has announced a campaign in Meath East to raise awareness of the threat the proposed Hate Speech and Hate Crime Bill poses to Freedom of speech.
Speaking today, Ms. Hardiman said “Less than five years after the Irish people voted to expand freedom of speech in the blasphemy referendum, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is looking to restrict those freedoms again under the guise of the Hate Speech and Hate Crime Bill. This is an affront to our basic civil liberties and freedoms”
Ms. Hardiman Continued “From a Scottish comedian being arrested in 2018 for teaching his dog to raise its paw to the command “Sieg Heil” to a Canadian man being jailed for calling his biologically female child his daughter, wherever hate speech legislation has been implemented, it has been abused. The potential for Hate Speech legislation to be used as a baton against political opponents is also significant. In the past few years alone both French and Dutch politicians have had cases taken against them on the grounds of hate speech. Already in Ireland politicians have signalled their interest in using this legislation to censor political opponents”
Speaking on March 9th, during a Dáil debate on a European commission proposal regarding hate speech, Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe said of a minor Irish political party:
“If its members believe they have a right to speech, they will have less of a right to make their statements when we sign up to this [European Commission proposal], because any form of rallying people or inciting hatred in that regard will be illegal,”
“This cuts to the very heart of our democracy. Dáil privileges protect the freedom of speech of politicians. Yet the government is trying to take away the very same right from the Irish people. As this government staggers from crisis to crisis, we cannot allow it to curtail our right to freedom of speech. Free Speech Ireland recognises this as one of the greatest threats to the civil liberties of the Irish people in the history of the state. Because of this, we are committed to leafleting Meath East to raise awareness of the threat that this poses to our democracy.” Concluded Ms. Sarah Hardiman.