New ‘revenge porn’ laws bring tougher penalties.

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New ‘revenge porn’ laws bring tougher penalties.

Photo by Marco Verch (CC BY)

Photo by Marco Verch (CC BY)

Photo by Marco Verch (CC BY)

Malcolm Coleman, Reporter

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The Western Australian parliament has recently joined other states across Australia in introducing new legislation on ‘revenge porn’, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

Federal laws passed in August 2018  made some cyber image sharing activities into criminal offences, meaning that police can get involved and offenders can be sentenced to prison terms of up to seven years and hefty fines.

The WA Parliament followed suit in February and passed its own Criminal Law Amendment (Intimate Images) Bill that makes the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, or ‘revenge porn’, a crime which attracts jail time of either 18 months or three years and/or a fine of up to $18,000.

The WA laws work together with the Federal laws to provide greater protection.

The new laws will provide courts with more power in ordering anybody charged with such an offence to remove or destroy their content. WA Attorney General Mr John Quigley said the laws extended beyond revenge porn involving actual photos of victims, to cases which included photo-shopped images.

“This is where the person’s face is taken and placed on a pornographic photo and then distributed … It is not only degrading and dehumanising, it also violates the rights of personal privacy and dignity.”

Quigley also argued that this kind of image-based abuse causes profound damage. The victims carry damage to their reputation and interpersonal relationships, from mental health problems to education and employment prospects also being affected.

The risk of the victim speaking out, has in some cases, resulted in them being subjected to more online harassment or intimidation. In addition, the behaviour of the victims in too many cases in the past has been brought into question.

This is why new laws have been enacted to hold perpetrators to account and to punish them for their harmful actions.

The new State and Federal laws now give more power to the police and the courts to hold perpetrator’s accountable for the harm they have caused.

Quigley explained that the new WA laws do three things.

Firstly, a new offence has been created through the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. The second factor is that it empowers courts to order the person charged to destroy or remove such images. The third is that it ensures that existing ‘threat’ offences apply to a threat to distribute an intimate image.

“So, under new Section 221BD of the criminal code, titled “Distribution of an intimate image”, the new offence at the core of this newly passed legislation carries three elements that have been established.

“There must be a distribution of an intimate image of another person, without the consent of the person depicted in the image. The reference to an intimate image “of another person” ensures that there is no such offence taking place when a person distributes an image only of himself or herself,” he said.

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