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Helen McEntee: Coco’s Law will give gardaí tools to prosecute those who share intimate images without consent

The passing of Coco’s Law will prevent the sharing of intimate images without consent – regardless of the motivation for doing so.

Image: PA

IN THE LAST legislative business of this dramatic year, TDs and senators worked together to pass Coco’s Law, which prevents the sharing of intimate images without consent.

Since my appointment as Minister for Justice, I have been determined to move quickly to enact Coco’s Law.

Many people have long waited for reform. For greater protections for victims; and greater penalties for abusers.

Coco’s Law has now passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad and will be sent to President Michael D Higgins for his signature. I expect it will be commenced – or fully take effect – in early February.

I was determined the legislation would be passed by Christmas and am satisfied this has happened.

Coco’s Law will prevent the sharing of intimate images without consent – regardless of the motivation for doing so.

Importantly, it will be irrelevant that a person may have consented to the taking of an image if it is subsequently published or distributed without their consent.

And it will be an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing if the perpetrator of the offence is or was in an intimate relationship with the victim.

Coco’s Law will also cover so-called “deep fakes” – horrendous altered images which falsely depict someone in an intimate situation.

We will also update our laws on harassment to cover all forms of communication about a person, not just indecent images, and to increase the penalty from seven to ten years to reflect the harm that can be caused by the most serious forms of harassment.

The co-operation across the Dáil and Seanad reflected the importance of this legislation. I worked closely with Labour’s Brendan Howlin in recent months to progress the Bill.

And TDs and senators of all parties also worked together to ensure it passed as quickly as possible.

Coco’s Law will give An Garda Síochána the tools they need to make sure that those who commit this abusive crime can be prosecuted.

Our Courts will have sentences available that reflect the level of harm these crimes cause to their victims.

As many of us worked together to enact change, the memory of Nicole Fox, or ‘Coco’, was never far from our thoughts.

Nicole, a beautiful 21-year-old, was lost to her mother Jackie almost three years ago.

Jackie Fox has fought so hard for change and, when we met recently, she told me about Coco’s legacy; about the loving bond they shared as mother and daughter.

It was extremely moving to hear about their relationship.

Jackie also told me about the abuse and harassment Coco suffered, and it affected me deeply.

Jackie has visited schools, colleges, youth clubs and community centres across the country to give talks about Coco and her own campaign to change the law.

With Jackie’s agreement, we attached a memo to the Bill which has now passed through the Dáil and Seanad.

It says the Bill’s measures are “strongly influenced by persons who
have lost their lives because of online abuse, in particular, Nicole Fox”.

“The Bill is in recognition of her mother’s determination to honour the memory of her daughter and to strengthen the law so that others can be safer. As a result, this Bill can be referred to as Coco’s Law,” it adds.

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Jackie campaigned for the change the memory of her daughter deserves.

Very soon, these stronger laws which give greater protections from online abuse will take effect.

It’s up to all of us to continue to call out and report this kind of behaviour when we encounter it.

There can be no tolerance for online abuse.

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