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Coco's Law

Intimate videos and hidden cameras: Gardaí launch major campaign to help victims of sextortion

Sextortion is a form of cyber extortion which involves a threat or blackmail of having intimate information, images or clips shared without consent.

INTIMATE VIDEOS AND a hidden camera in a shower are some of the examples of sextortion as gardaí launch a major campaign to help victims. 

The crime is a form of cyber extortion which involves a threat or blackmail of having intimate information, images or clips shared without consent.

The threat or blackmail may be to get the victim to do or refrain from doing something, or the threat or blackmail may be purely for money or financial gain.

Part of the campaign sees videos released on garda social media depicting a typical case.

Detective Superintendent Ian Lackey of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said many victims may not realise that the crime can get the perpetrator a significant jail sentence.

“We want people to know that it does not matter what age, gender, background, qualification, profession or personal circumstances you are in – this can happen anyone. There is no shame or embarrassment to be associated with sextortion.

“We have no doubt whatsoever that there are victims experiencing this in silence, who must feel stressed or alone not knowing where to turn, but we are here to help and support,” he said. 

Lackey said that victims would be supported by the force and said that they should contact the gardaí at any station across the country. 

“Raising awareness of the possible warning signs of sextortion can help in ensuring fewer people are affected, but our campaign is also aimed at shifting public attitudes. Society can support us in our work to increase awareness around these types of crimes,” he added.  

Gardaí said the text messages included in the awareness campaign are real and formed part of the evidence in a case that was brought before the courts in 2021.

The perpetrator was convicted of committing sextortion of a woman aged in her 30’s.

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 or more commonly known as ‘Coco’s Law’ was enacted in February 2021.

Gardaí said they have commenced 72 prosecutions related to 49 investigations. 

Case studies

Those prosecutions have included a case in April 2021 in which a woman reported that an intimate image of her was captured on hidden camera in the shower and circulated without her consent. A man was prosecuted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

In May 2021 a woman reported an intimate video had been shared without consent. Male prosecuted and sentenced to six months – this sentence is now under appeal.

An Garda Síochána released statistics showed that of 471 incidents of ‘Blackmail/Extortion’ including intimate material, 82% of these involved male victims with almost 30% of victims being in the 18-24 age group.

According to Hotline.ie, the Irish national centre responsible for combating illegal content online, they received 688 reports in relation to Intimate Image Abuse (IIA) in 2022. There has been a 93% successful removal rate by Hotline.ie, and the removal of intimate images takes an average 0-3 days.

The gardaí have released a set of warning signs for victims to keep a look out for and which may help them identify the traits of the perpetrator.

They said that a suspect’s online profile is not consistent with what you see and hear when you talk or chat with them.

“They’re moving too fast — they express strong emotions for you almost straight away, and quickly tempt you across to a more private channel, suggesting you get nude or sexual in a video call.

“They make excuses — they say their webcam is not working and instead send a nude photo which they claim is of them.

“They say they need help — they say they need money for some sort of personal emergency like medical treatment or to cover the rent,” the garda statement said. 

Gardaí have advised the public to not panic, to not pay and to save any evidence including screenshots.

They have also asked victims to save messages and images and collect URL links to where the information is being shared online.

Investigators also said that people should report it immediately to a garda station and also use online reporting facility Hotline.ie so that they can process a content removal request.

Finally they said to block all communication with the suspect and if the victim is in an intimate relationship in which it is happening seek help and report to your local Garda Station.

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