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Garda Commissioner says 10,000 images examined but no formal complaints of image-based abuse made

Drew Harris said there were no images of child abuse found among the pictures.

File image of the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
File image of the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
Image: RollingNews.ie

GARDAÍ HAVE FOUND no images of child abuse after examining more than 10,000 images uploaded to a number of online forums. 

It was reported last week that gardaí were investigating the alleged uploading of images and videos of Irish women and girls without their consent.

Speaking at an online meeting with the Policing Authority earlier today, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said there have been no formal complaints made of image-based sexual abuse in relation to these images. 

“We have examined those and, first of all, there are no images of child abuse within them” Harris said. 

“The images run to over 10,000, and all of them have been examined and as yet, we’ve had no actual complaint of image-based sexual abuse.” 

He added there have been no complaints of coercion or harassment either. 

Many of the images had been shared in forums on Discord, an online messaging platform.

A spokesperson for Discord told TheJournal.ie that as soon as the website “became aware of this server, we permanently deleted it” and “identified and banned the approximately 500 users involved”.

Harris said gardaí have reached out to the relevant law enforcement agency which has assisted gardaí in enquiries.

He added that gardaí have also reached out to other law enforcement agencies with specialism in identifying images of child abuse, with no images found in this search. 

Harris said there are no crimes under investigation as a result of the initial probe.

It is not currently a crime in Ireland to share intimate or explicit images on a non-consensual basis.

The alleged incident last week sparked huge public concern. Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she hopes related legislation, which has been working its way through the Oireachtas since 2017, will be passed by the end of the year.

Harris said today: “There’s actually no crimes under investigation in this jurisdiction at this moment in time, but at the same time as an organisation, we’re very aware of coercive control, the harassment of individuals, the problem of images being used to intimidate people, blackmail people as a form of, as it’s known, image-based sexual abuse.”

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The Garda Commissioner encouraged people who are facing this to come forward and report it to gardaí. 

“We do have specialist teams to investigate this, and we can draw on our own investigative expertise, but also the investigative expertise of other law enforcement agencies, and we’d be anxious to receive any complaints that people might have.”

The sharing of intimate or explicit images of a person without their consent is typically referred to as ‘revenge porn’, or image-based sexual abuse.

Yesterday, Cabinet approved a proposal to put a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or seven years imprisonment for the distribution or publication of intimate images without consent and with intent to cause harm. 

The taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent, and without a requirement that the person intended to cause harm to the victim, will carry a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or a 12 month jail sentence.

With reporting by Órla Ryan.

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