Revenge porn is not a crime in Ireland: How long before we have legislation?

Victim tells Newstalk the act can cause "an extreme sense that I’ve lost control of my own life"

At present, revenge porn is not classified as a crime in Ireland. This means that a person can post an intimate image of another human online, without their consent and face no legal consequences.

The Law Reform Commission has confirmed that it is preparing a report and draft bill for the Department of Justice, targeting online abuse and crime. Speaking earlier this week, Raymond Burke of the Law Reform Commission explained how speed is key in this process

"We will try our best to propose draft legislation that doesn't involved going to court but instead that gets things down as quickly as possible."

25-year old Emma Holten's email account was hacked back in 2011, causing for images she had sent to an ex-boyfriend to be posted online. Holten told Newstalk Breakfast what impact this type of violation has on the victims:

“The strongest emotion for me was this extreme sense that I’ve lost control of my own life. I think we all care about what people know about us, we all think about what we share on social media, or what we tell people about ourselves. 

"And then when you lose control of yourself in this way, you feel that: ‘Is this all people are ever going to talk about me? Will I ever be able to have a regular life, a regular family, a regular job?"

As it stands, elements of revenge porn are covered under Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997. Burke explained to Newstalk Breakfast what exactly this protects against: 

"We don't have direct legislation that prevents revenge porn. We do have the harassment offence and the stalking offence that was enacted in 1997. That covers stalking that involves direct contact with the target and if that's done online, that would be covered. And there are some situations when this shaming does take place but there's also issues around setting up fake profiles - making it indirect, and that is not covered at present.

"There have been some prosecutions because of data protection legislation, but really, we don't have the kind of legislation that is intended to deal with somebody who intentionally puts something up about somebody with the very clear intention of damaging them." 

The news from the Law Reform Commission comes after Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone called for the introduction of legislation, which will criminalise revenge porn.

Abroad

The Philippines was the first country to criminalise non-consensual pornography, doing so back in 2009. Offenders can receive up to 7 years imprisonment if convicted of an offence. 

Victoria, Australia followed suit in 2013, making it a crime to post revenge porn, while Israel has classified non-consensual pornography as a sexual assault in 2014. 

England and Wales introduced a new section to the Criminal and Courts Act in April 2015, making it an offence to share photos of videos of a sexual nature of another person without their consent. This includes the sharing of images on social media or via text. Those convicted of an offence could face up to two years in prison. 

It is thought that the report by the LRC will target online abuse and crime, but will stop short of recommending mandatory sentences. The LRC consulted with young people when researching the project.