Netflix’s Baby Reindeer: A Cultural Phenomenon with Legal Implications

The hit Netflix series Baby Reindeer, with over 22 million viewers, brings the issue of stalking and harassment to the forefront of public consciousness. As this compelling series resonates with global audiences, it also highlights the importance of addressing stalking and harassment in a real-world context. Here Michelle Cronin, Partner, CKT examines how media representation, like in Baby Reindeer, intersects with Ireland’s evolving legal approach to stalking and harassment.

Baby Reindeer – the Irish context

I suspect a certain cohort of people may find watching Baby Reindeer too difficult or too challenging. That cohort may include people who have been the victims of stalking or harassment and perhaps those who have stalked or harassed other people.

Victims of stalking in Ireland do not need to be reminded that it is a difficult area to address through the law.

Generally, when people think of stalking, they think of those who were in a personal or intimate relationship with the stalker. However, stalking occurs between strangers, between people who have only met in the workplace, between service providers and service users and between family members. Stalking can take many forms including communication via social media, phone, in person, through third parties and every possible permutation of contact that exists.

One of the (few) disadvantages of watching programmes which touch on any aspect of law for a lawyer, is that we cannot resist immediately poking holes in the story line or holding forth on the law in Ireland and how it’s better (quite often) that what we are seeing on screen.

Naturally, that leads me to consider how the law in Ireland deals with the offence of stalking.

As always, there are two aspects – the criminal part which is prosecuted by the State and the civil jurisdiction where people may seek Orders banning certain actions.

The Legal Landscape: Stalking and Criminal Prosecution

Section 23 of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 amended the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 introduced the offence of stalking as a criminal offence. The relevant section was commenced on the 1st of November 2023. Previously stalking offences could be prosecuted by the Gardaí as harassment under the 1997 Act. Studies have indicated that less than half of those stalked report the matter to the Gardaí. This may change with the awareness that the offence is now defined in law.

A person convicted of stalking may be fined and or imprisoned for up to one year if prosecuted in the District Court and up to ten years, if prosecuted in the Circuit Court. The DPP decides where the person is prosecuted. A successful prosecution must prove that:

“a) the person, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, by his or her acts, intentionally or recklessly causes another, at the time when the acts occur or when the other becomes aware of them—

(i) to fear that violence will be used against him or her or another person connected to him or her, or

(ii) serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on his or her usual day-to-day activities,


(b) the person’s acts are such that a reasonable person would realise that the acts would cause the other, at the time when the acts occur or when the other becomes aware of them, to fear that violence will be used against him or her or another person connected to him or her, or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on his or her usual day-to-day activities.”

“Acts” are defined as including: following, watching, monitoring, tracking or spying upon a person; pestering a person; impersonating a person; communicating with or about a person; purporting to act or communicate on behalf of a person; disclosing to other persons private information in respect of a person; interfering with the property (including pets) of a person;  loitering in the vicinity of a person; causing, without the consent of the person, an electronic communication or information system operated by a person to function in a particular way;

On conviction the Court

“may, in addition to or as an alternative to any other penalty, order that the person shall not, for such period as the court may specify, communicate by any means with or about the other person or that the person shall not approach within such distance as the court shall specify of the place of residence, education or employment of the other person.”

New Provisions for Civil Protection: Hope for Stalking Victims

One key area where Ireland’s legal approach could evolve further is the use of restraining orders. In England, courts can issue restraining orders upon conviction or acquittal, based on a balance of probabilities. This preventative measure could offer additional protection to stalking victims in Ireland, suggesting a potential avenue for future legislative reform.

While criminal prosecution can address severe cases of stalking, many victims seek civil remedies for ongoing protection. Unless there has been or is a relationship between the stalker and individual, as defined in the Domestic Violence Act, 2018, the Courts cannot offer much by way of assistance to victims of stalking by way of Order. Solicitors can write letters asking that the behaviour stop, and this is sometimes sufficient, but not always.

Part 5 of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 has not been commenced yet. When commenced will be hugely significant for victims of stalking, as it will allow for people to seek Orders broadly similar to Safety Orders, which are available under the Domestic Violence Act, when certain criteria are met.

This is because Section 28 of the 2023 Act allows an applicant (or a Garda on behalf of an applicant) to apply to the District Court for an Order lasting up to 5 years against another person prohibiting that person from:

(a) using or threatening to use violence against, molesting or putting in fear the person;

(b) following or communicating by any means with or about the person;

(c) approaching, within such distance as the court shall specify, the place of residence, education or employment of the person;

(d) engaging in such other forms of relevant conduct as the court specifies.

Breach of the Order can be prosecuted and can result in imprisonment of up to 12 months.

Given that I have referenced the law in England above, it is only fair to state English law does not have any similar provisions at the moment and it must be hoped that they and other jurisdictions will follow our lead.

This will be hugely significant to people who have had the misfortune to attract the attentions of those who persist in behaviour that can be life changing / life limiting for victims.

Conclusion: How Media Shapes Legal Awareness

Media portrayals, like those in Baby Reindeer, can influence public perception and spark dialogue on stalking and harassment. This conversation often leads to a deeper examination of the legal framework and the tools available for prosecution and civil protection. As Irish law evolves, it is essential to continue assessing the impact of media narratives on real-life legal outcomes.