SPECIAL REPORT: Revenge porn not a crime in Ireland

Revenge porn is not illegal in Ireland despite widespread criminalisation elsewhere, writes Joyce Fegan.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told the Irish Examiner the Law Reform Commission is currently preparing a report (Cybercrime) and it will help to inform any future legislation in the area. The spokesperson said only “aspects” of revenge porn are covered by current law.

“While aspects of what is known loosely as ‘revenge pornography’ are addressed by the harassment offence in Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, there has been a growing awareness and concern in relation to issues such as cyber- harassment, revenge porn, and related harmful internet content in recent years with the growth of cyber technology,” said the spokesperson.

The gap in the law occurs because Section 10 states that while harassment can occur by any means, crucially it must be persistent.

Therefore, a one-off, non-consensual uploading of intimate content does not fall under the current law. But despite the gaping hole in criminal law, there are remedies available in civil law.

Women’s Aid advises victims if they did not give permission for the material to be published online then the act constitutes a clear invasion of right to privacy as enshrined in the Irish Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Furthermore, a victim has a right to have the personally sensitive material erased under the Data Protection Acts 1988-2003.

According to senior counsel Pauline Walley, there have been three prosecutions at a district court level, where victims of covert filming, invoked the data protection law.

However, Ms Walley points to a High Court judgment from January 2012, where the judge called on the Oireachtas to legislate for cybercrime as a matter of urgency.

In Tansey v Gill, Mr Justice Michael Peart said the internet had given “ill-motivated” and “unscrupulous persons” an inexpensive way to vent their anger and their perceived grievances against any person.

“So serious is the mischief so easily achieved that in my view the Oireachtas should be asked to consider the creation of an inappropriate offence under criminal law, with a penalty upon conviction to act as a real deterrent to the perpetrator,” said Justice Peart.

He added that civil remedies provided an “inadequate means of prevention and redress”.

However,under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998, a criminal offence occurs where anyone knowingly produces or distributes child pornography.

Therefore, due to the wording of the legislation it is possible that an underage person who took their own photo and shared it, could be found to have distributed child pornography.

The law in other countries

Joyce Fegan

England and Wales: In April 2015 a new section was introduced to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, making it an offence to share sexual photos or videos of another person without their consent.

It includes images posted on social networks and those sent by text without permission. Convicted offenders could face up to two years in prison.

The first conviction under the new law was secured against Jason Asagba, aged 21, in July 2015. He was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, as well as 100 hours’ unpaid work.

US: According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 34 states and Washington DC have prohibited the practice of distributing non-consensual intimate images online.

The Philippines: In 2009, it was the first country to criminalise non-consensual pornography.

There is a penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment if a person is found guilty of the offence.

Israel: In 2014, it was the first country to classify non-consensual pornography as sexual assault.

If you are found guilty of the offence, you can receive a prison term of up to five years.

Australia: The state of Victoria has specific legislation to tackle revenge porn, which made it a crime in 2013.

More on this topic

New laws to tackle revenge porn welcomedNew laws to tackle revenge porn welcomed

Howlin says people found guilty of revenge porn should be added to sex offenders registerHowlin says people found guilty of revenge porn should be added to sex offenders register

Revenge porn to be made a crimeRevenge porn to be made a crime

Government backs Labour party bill that would mean tough penalties for people who distribute revenge pornGovernment backs Labour party bill that would mean tough penalties for people who distribute revenge porn


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