492. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice his plans to legislate to make stalking a crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32907/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The creation of a distinct offence of stalking was carefully examined by my Department in the context of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020.
Following consultations with various stakeholders, and an in-depth examination of the current offence of harassment, it was clear that stalking behaviour is already encompassed in the current offence of harassment under section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.
The definition of harassment in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 includes harassing another person by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with them. This covers a range of behaviours from the lower end of what is considered harassing behaviour right up to the more serious cases of stalking where a person shows up at the victim’s home, work or anywhere else the victim happens to be, causing them alarm or distress. 
In lieu of introducing a distinct offence of stalking, the 1997 Act was strengthened substantially to increase the maximum penalty for harassment to 10 years’ imprisonment, which reflects the harm caused by those who engage in the most serious forms of harassment.
This is as high as, and in a number of cases higher than, the penalties available in other jurisdictions looked at, including jurisdictions that have a distinct offence of stalking.