Legislation could see seven-year jail terms for ‘revenge porn’

The Government has agreed to create a new offence for the non-consensual distribution of intimate images including what is known as “revenge pornography”.

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New legislation on harassment proposed by Labour will be adopted by the Government, which could see offenders sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

While the radical legislation will not be fast-tracked, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has agreed to accept the Labour Party’s bill to try and introduce the new laws at the earliest possible stage.

Under Brendan Howlin’s Harmful Communications Bill, the new offence for the sharing of such images with or without intent to cause harm would be categorised as a sexual offence. 

Mr Howlin also progressed the measure in the wake of a recent court case where a man forced young girls to share intimate images with him.

The bill would see offenders get harsher sentences if the victim is underage or unable to guard themselves from harm.

Under the plan, an existing offence of sending threatening or indecent images will be extended to cover such messages that use any form of online or digital communications, that go beyond phones or texts.

Mr Flanagan told the Cabinet yesterday that Mr Howlin will meet with officials to iron out any concerns about the bill or differences with government on the plans. 

There will also be consultation with the Department of Children where the new laws impact on or affects minors.

The proposals would see the Director of Public Prosecutions having to give consent to prosecute an individual under the age of 17 for an offence under the bill.

Mr Howlin’s proposals, as they currently stand, include the offence of stalking, where an alleged offender interferes with a victim’s privacy and causes them alarm, stress or harm.

The bill allows for if the perpetrator and victim were previously in an intimate relationship and personal information was used. 

This could be with an electronic device or software in order to monitor, observe, listen to or make a recording of the victim or their movements.

Elsewhere, The Government has approved the nomination of Patrick Sullivan for appointment as a commissioner in the Garda Ombudsman for a term of two and a half years, starting in July. 

Mr Sullivan is replacing Mark Toland who resigned from GSOC in November to take up the position of chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate.

Mr O’Sullivan has worked in several investigative roles with federal agencies in the United States, including in its Environmental Protection Agency as well as in its Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the Government also agreed not to oppose new gambling control legislation proposed by Fianna Fail.

The bill, in the Dáil this evening, proposes to strengthen regulation, following a failure by Fine Gael in power to act on the sector since plans were first mooted in 2013.

Fianna Fáil say its legislation proposes a clear basis to regulate the industry, protect vulnerable people and restrict the advertising and sponsorship of gambling. 

But the Government will also await the outcome of an inter-departmental review and insist that independent regulation must be a priority.


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