Monday 17 December 2018

New law to tackle online harassment and revenge pornography

Stock photo: Getty Images
Stock photo: Getty Images
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

People posting or threatening to publish 'revenge porn' would face prison under new legislation being put before the Dáil.

The bill put forward by Labour also includes cyberbullying, harassment and stalking with certain cases having maximum prison sentences of seven years.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the problem was growing and that he would expect convictions, once the legislation is introduced. It received cross-party support in the Dáil yesterday afternoon.

"People in intimate relationships, when that relationship breaks down, they use images gathered during that relationship to harm their former partner.

"Posting intimate, lewd and unacceptable images that were meant for an intimate couple is totally unacceptable and that will be outlawed in the bill we have before the Dáil," Mr Howlin said.

He explained that current laws in place date to 1951 and cover bullying and harassment via only post or text.

He said that these laws had simply not caught up with modern technology.

"The internet has to ensure that our citizens will not be bullied, harassed, hurt and in some instances crushed as we've seen in the past," he said.

Ireland was currently behind many countries in addressing these issues, Mr Howlin added.

"Other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are already well in advance of us," he said.

"There are already hundreds of convictions in the United Kingdom for actions that are not unlawful in this country. That is not acceptable.

"The problem with victims right now is they know the hurt that's been caused to them but they have no recourse to law because the law isn't there to protect them," he added.


Meanwhile, in the UK, police warned parents they could be arrested and have their homes raided if their children send sexually explicit images on mobile phones they pay for.

Parents who sign for mobile phone contracts on behalf of their children are considered liable for any 'sexting' images shared by teenagers.

Anybody under 18 cannot get a mobile phone contract because they will not pass credit checks. Monthly phone contracts are taken out by parents instead.

A senior detective said police could raid family homes, seize computers and phones and arrest 'innocent' parents as part of their criminal inquiries.

The warning was intended to alert mothers and fathers to the growing problem of teenagers who share 'nude selfies'.

Detective Superintendent Susie Harper, head of Kent's public protection safeguarding unit, insisted: "I'm not raising awareness to scaremonger" and said the force's "first priority is to safeguard young people and protect them".

But some experts warned this risked deterring vulnerable children from contacting parents and authorities.

Irish Independent

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