Northern Ireland looks set to introduce a specific criminal offence of ‘Revenge Porn’ which could carry a two year prison sentence.

09 February 2016

Practice Area: Media and Defamation

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The NI Assembly’s Committee for Justice has acknowledged that the internet has created challenges for the law and that it must adapt to ensure that the law enforcement agencies have sufficient and proper tools to tackle new and emerging types of criminal behaviour.  These clauses ensure that what is often described as “revenge porn” is now a criminal offence which could carry a two year prison sentence and a fine.

The offence criminalises the disclosure of private sexual photographs or film without the consent of the individual appearing in the image with the intention to cause that person distress.  Although the victim may have given consent to create the original image or video, they do not give consent to make the images public. It is therefore a private message which has unlawfully been made public.  The offence applies both offline and online, as disclosure could be by uploading to the internet, by email, text message or by post or even by merely showing another person the unlawful image.

Images are sometimes accompanied by personal information about the victim including their full name, address and link to their social media profiles which not only ensures identification of the victim but which compounds the malicious nature of the conduct.

Olivia O’Kane, a media lawyer at Carson McDowell said:

“Although a statutory legal framework already exists in NI to prosecute these type of offences, creating a specific offence brings clarity and transparency to the law which will hopefully encourage victims to come forward to seek help.  It will also send a clear message to potential perpetrators that this type of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated and the attackers will face prosecution in Northern Ireland’s criminal justice system.  It provides transparency and would act as a deterrent and warning to potential attackers.  Any piece of legislation which provides clarity and a greater understanding for police officers, prosecutors and the public to know and understand what they should be looking for when investigating these crimes can only be a positive change.”

“No one should have to suffer the hurt and humiliation of revenge pornography.  It is a nasty and invasive crime which appears to have increased as social media use increases.  The impact on victims is vast as the images can go viral.  Something that may have been done in a private and safe environment is being used as a weapon against them.”

“Victims feel violated and ashamed and some suffer psychological distress and damage to their family and professional life. This offence is a much wider problem than just between ex-partners – it also involves trolls who commit the offence by spreading these images about people they don’t even know – often to cause embarrassment or to make money. There are illegal websites making a profit out of the use of these criminal images.

“If anyone receives such an image they should report it to the police and remember, it is a criminal offence to share or forward that image.  If in doubt seek legal advice.”

ends

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06ztnmg#play

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