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'Revenge porn' soon to be illegal under new UK law, so should Ireland follow suit?

The punishment for sharing explicit images or videos on the internet in the UK will be a two year jail sentence.

Image: Shutterstock

THIS WEEK the House of Lords in the UK agreed unanimously to make “revenge porn” a criminal offence in England and Wales. Scotland plans to follow in their footsteps.

“Revenge porn” is a the term used when a ex-partner shares nude or sexual photos and videos of an ex.

Under the proposed UK law, revenge porn is classed as “photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public”.

The punishment for sharing explicit images or videos on the internet will carry a maximum jail term of two years.

Irish law

So, is this something that Ireland is considering and how much of an issue is it here?

The BBC reports that information from eight police forces in England and Wales which kept data on this issue, showed that there were 149 allegations of revenge porn made in the past two and a half years.

When TheJournal.ie asked the gardaí about the number of complaints made relating to this issue, they said they did not have that sort of data, stating:

… these complaints can be classified under attention and complaints and therefore are not categorised individually.

With no data, it is difficult to judge the scale of the issue here, but with technology pretty much at everyone’s finger tips these days, it would be understandable that if it is a problem in the UK, it could be one here too.

Speaking to Women’s Aid, they said that for a long time they have been vocal about the online abuse of women, but agreed that there were no hard statistics about “revenge porn”.

Celebrities hacked

Recently with celebrities having their personal images hacked and released for all the world to see, the group said that people are becoming a lot more aware about protecting their data and who they trust with it.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid said they are hearing from more and more, women who are being abused through various digital platforms.

“We hear from women whose boyfriends and ex-boyfriends had placed lies about them on internet sites. We also hear from women who had been photographed and filmed without their consent, sometimes having sex, and having the images uploaded to the internet,” she said. 

One story put forward by the organisation is about a young college student who was harassed by her ex-boyfriend. After she broke up with him, she logged into her Facebook account to find her profile picture had been replaced by a nude one.

“I didn’t even know when the photo had been taken. It looked like I was asleep. Then I saw a post from Dave, it just said ‘slut’. I knew then it was him, he must have been able to access my Facebook account. I just logged out and didn’t know what to do.”

Earlier this year, Women’s Aid called for legal reform to address the dangerous trend of digitally assisted stalking, with Martin stating that they were very concerned for young women facing the threat of internet shaming to control them.

New law?

TheJournal.ie asked the Department of Justice if there were any plans to introduce a similar law on revenge porn than that of our UK counterparts. They said there were no plans.

The did state that the Law Reform Commission is looking at crime affecting personal safety, privacy and reputation, including cyberbullying, adding:

“The Minister will consider the report of the LRC when she receives it.”

A spokesperson for the Law Reform Commission confirmed that since 2013 the Commission has been working on a project concerning disclosure crime affecting personal safety, privacy, reputation and cyber-bullying and this would include indirect harassment such as “revenge porn”.

They said the project explores the extent to which the current law on hate crime intersects or overlaps with this area and also examines procedural aspects of cyber-crime affecting personal safety, including the options for exercising jurisdiction in respect of offences committed via the internet.

The LRC told TheJournal.ie that they intend to publish a report on the issues shortly and will be canvassing for the views of interested parties to give their view, be it from the legal, professional or civil section of society as well as from the public.

Women’s Aid welcomed the LRC’s examination of the issues which are not dealt with in current law and they urged the commission to maintain a particular focus on cyber-stalking in intimate relationships.

Read: The UK is set to make “revenge porn” a criminal offence>

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