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'Revenge porn' may not be punishable through Irish law

The Law Reform Commission says there are gaps in the harassment laws that need to be addressed.
Nov 20th 2014, 7:15 AM 8,083 10

THE LAW REFORM Commission has said there are gaps in harassment laws that need to be addressed.

They have published a paper on cyber-crime, affecting privacy, harassment, cyber-bullying and social media.

One aspect of the paper looks at the issue known as “revenge porn”.

The paper looks at whether section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 fully captures the various forms of harassing behaviour conducted using cyber-technology.

Posting intimate images or videos online without consent. This type of activity received international attention in 2014 when intimate photos and videos of well-known personalities, including the actress Jennifer Lawrence, were posted online after their iCloud accounts had been hacked.This clearly involved hacking but might not come within section 10 of the 1997 Act.

The Commission said that indirect ‘revenge porn’ may not be covered by section 10 of the 1997 Act.

Posting on Facebook 

A spokesperson from the Commission gave TheJournal.ie an example of where the law would fail a victim.

Someone posts an sexually explicit video or image of an ex partner on Facebook without her knowledge. The image is sent to a number of friends and family in an email inviting them to view the video.However, the person who the image or video is of, does not have access to the page.

The ex-boyfriend also emails his ex some harassing emails that are sent directly to her via email.

Under the law, it could be that the series of email threats made directly to the victim
would probably meet the requirement in section 10 of the 1997 Act.

However, the video or images that the boyfriend sent to his friends is unlikely to meet the requirement in section 10 as the defendant had not been “communicating with” the victim.

“Posting the video on a Facebook page might possibly be prosecuted successfully under section 10 if the complainant had access to the page,” said the spokesperson, but as she did not, it would most likely not fall within the remit of the Act.

Revenge porn 

“There appears to be a gap in the harassment law, and the Commission thinks it would be good idea to clarify indirect harassment as a direct form of harassment and that would cover revenge porn.”

Similarly, there is a lack of clarity in the harassment laws when it comes to persistence.

Behaviour needs to persistent for it to be classed as “harassment”. In a case where there is one case of domestic violence, this would not be classed as harassment, as it is a one-off event.

“It is very difficult to define harassment,” said the spokesperson, who added that sharing an explicit gif once would not be classed as harassment, but sending one every day for six weeks, would be.

YouTube 

This could also be the case if a person uploaded an explicit video of an ex on YouTube.

When asked would this come under the law as it stands, the Commission spokesperson said:

It possibly wouldn’t be as it wouldn’t be persistent, it would be one-off action, it would not be persistent behaviour, it would essentially be would be one click.

She said the Commission are anxious to get views of the public on all of these matters, as to whether they should be brought under the harassment laws, stating that it is all about balancing the freedom to expression and the right to privacy.

She added, however, that these incidences would all have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, most likely.

She said that the government are unlikely to create a entirely new criminal offence for just revenge porn, as our UK counterparts have, stating that harassment laws would be the umbrella over these sort of offences.

 Read: ‘Revenge porn’ soon to be illegal under new UK law, so should Ireland follow suit?>

Read: First person jailed for WhatsApp ‘revenge porn’ in the UK>

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Christina Finn

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