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new law 'It won't bring her back but it will help others' - mum of Nicole as 'Coco's law' passed

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Nicole Fox

Nicole Fox

Nicole Fox

The mother of a young woman who took her life after suffering prolonged cyber- bullying has said the passing of a new law to make online abuse a criminal offence is a "bittersweet" day.

Nicole Fox, whose nickname was Coco, was 21 when she died in January 2018.

Her mother, Jackie Fox, of Clondalkin, and her family have been campaigning for a change to the law ever since.

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Jackie Fox campaigned for cyberbullying to be made a criminal offence after the death of her daughter Nicole

Jackie Fox campaigned for cyberbullying to be made a criminal offence after the death of her daughter Nicole

Jackie Fox campaigned for cyberbullying to be made a criminal offence after the death of her daughter Nicole

Yesterday, the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 was formally signed into law by President Michael D Higgins following months of debate.

It outlaws a wide range of offences including online abuse, cyber-bullying and image-based abuse.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said it was not possible to legally change the title of the bill to Coco's Law in memory of Nicole, but the legislation her mother successfully campaigned for will always be known by that name.

"It's a bittersweet day. It won't bring Nicole back, but it will help others. My emotions are all over the place," Ms Fox said.

"I feel proud, guilty, happy and sad. I don't know what the right feeling is.

"I remember sitting on Nicole's bed once a few weeks after she died, and I was inches away from joining her.

"But I decided to go into survival mode and be persistent in getting the law changed to make this type of bullying an offence."

Under the new bill, if there is "intent to cause harm", the offence carries an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to seven years.

If there is no intent to cause harm, the same offence will be punishable by a maximum penalty of €5,000 or 12 months' imprisonment.

It bill was passed after a petition with more than 32,000 signatures was presented to the Dáil last September.

It urged TDs to make online abuse a criminal offence.

The bill was drafted by Labour's justice spokesperson Brendan Howlin, who said the current laws on online abuse were outdated.

"The last time we updated these types of laws was when texting came in 30 years ago," he said in a statement when he re-introduced the bill.

"The whole online world has exploded, and we as a country did nothing to police it.

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"I first introduced this bill more than three years and, unfortunately, we did not make the progress we wanted with the previous minister for justice."

The bill encompasses all forms of electronic communication - both written and spoken - and includes messaging on apps such as WhatsApp as well as posts on social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

It received widespread support in the community.

Along with the petition, a socially-distanced march was held in August in which supporters, many of whom had also experienced online abuse, demanded that the bill become law.


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