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President Higgins signs legislation criminalising distribution of intimate images without consent into law

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 covers a wide range of offences.

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins
Image: Peter Byrne via RollingNews.ie

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has signed new legislation criminalising the distribution of intimate images without consent into law. 

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 covers a wide range of offences, including online abuse, cyberbullying, and image-based abuse.

It has come to be referred to as Coco’s Law after Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox Fenlon, who took her own life in 2018 after a period of prolonged abuse online.

It will provide for two new offences dealing with the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. 

The first offence will deal with the taking, distribution, publication or threat to distribute intimate images without consent, and with intent to cause harm to the victim. It will carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or 7 years’ imprisonment.

The second offence deals with the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent without a requirement that the person intended to cause harm to the victim. It will carry an offence of a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

Existing laws will also be updated in the area of harassment, broadening the scope of the offence of harassment to cover all forms of persistent communications about a person. The most serious forms of harassment will now be punishable with seven to ten years in prison. 

President Higgins signed the bill today and it has accordingly become law.

The bill had cross party support and made its way quickly through the Oireachtas in recent weeks.

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With reporting by Sean Murray

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