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Sharing intimate images with intent to harm could carry seven year prison sentence

The new offences deal with the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee will bring the proposals to Cabinet tomorrow.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee will bring the proposals to Cabinet tomorrow.
Image: Sam Boal

SHARING INTIMATE IMAGES without consent and without a requirement that the person intended to cause harm to the victim could result in a fine of €5,000 and 12 months in prison under proposals being brought to Cabinet this week.

It is understood Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to seek Cabinet approval tomorrow for new offences to deal with the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

The move comes only a couple of days after the gardaí confirmed they are investigating the uploading of images and videos of Irish women and girls, without their consent, to a number of online forums.

It is understood that some of the images and footage are of minors. 

The Victims Alliance, an advocacy group, said tens of thousands of images have been shared on various online platforms.

Last week, the minister said in the Dáil that anyone sharing intimate images of a person without their consent “will face serious criminal sanctions”.

Under the minister’s proposals, the first offence will deal with the distribution or publication of intimate images without consent and with intent to cause harm.

It is intended to carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or seven years imprisonment.

The second offence will deal with the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent without a requirement that the person intended to cause harm to the victim of the offence.

It is intended that this offence will carry a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment.

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

The Bill does not specify the types of technology that may be used to commit the offences, and is intentionally neutral to cover all forms of online and offline communications that cause harm to a victim.

It will also 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 of the offence.

The new measures will be contained in amendments to the Harassment, Harmful Communications and other Related Offences Bill. 

An update on the harassment legislation will also broaden the scope of the offence of harassment to cover consistent communications to or about a person, not just indecent images, and increasing the penalty from seven to ten years to reflect the harm that can be caused by most serious forms of harassment.

The maximum penalty will be increased from seven years to 10 years to reflect the harm caused by the most serious forms of harassment.

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McEntee is believed to have worked closely with Brendan Howlin of the Labour Party, who tabled the Bill in the last Dáil.

The government will seek to enact the Bill as a priority, with the minister stating that she welcomes the cross party support for the Bill, which she wants to see “enacted as soon as possible”.

The Bill is scheduled for committee stage in the Dail on 1 December.

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