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23rd Nov 2020

New image based sexual abuse laws to carry prison sentence of up to seven years

Jade Hayden

The change is expected to be approved tomorrow.

New image based sexual abuse laws will carry a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Updated legislation, expected to be approved by Cabinet tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24), will make it an offence to share intimate or explicit images of a person without their consent.

This action, commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ has seen an increase in recent years due to the prevalence of social media and, more recently, the reliance on online communication triggered by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

RTÉ News reports that Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will seek Cabinet’s approval tomorrow for new legislation concerning harassment offences and the unsolicited sharing of intimate images.

Two new amendments are set to be included in the Harassment, Harmful Communication and other Related Offences Bill.

The first will concern the publication or distribution of intimate images without a person’s consent and with intent to cause stress or harm. The offence is expected to carry an unlimited fine and/or up to seven years’ imprisonment.

The second will concern the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent, without any intent to cause stress of harm. This offence is expected to carry a maximum penalty of €5,000 and/or up to 12 months’ imprisonment.

Ireland’s first Bill relating to the issue of image based sexual abuse was proposed three years ago by former Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

Section 4 of the Bill stated: “A person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse records, distributes or publishes, or threatens to record, distribute or publish, an intimate image of another person without the other person’s consent” and subsequently causes harm or distress the person should be charged with an offence.”

The Bill was proposed in 2017, but was never signed into law. Minister McEntee said earlier this summer that she intended the law to change by the end of 2020.

“I know the huge and very damaging impact that something like this can have on someone,” she said in August.

“There is currently legislation in place around harassment and harmful communications, but what we’re doing with this other piece of legislation is strengthening that from the criminal aspect and the criminal side.”

Ireland currently has no laws against image based sexual abuse.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, you can contact Women’s Aid on 1800 341 900, or speak to your local Garda Victims Service Office.