Why Isn't 'Revenge Porn' Illegal in Ireland?

The problems surrounding laws in relation to the posting of explicit images of people without consent on the internet have been brought into sharp focus.

RevengePorn

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, a woman called Jane outlined how she discovered that an ex-boyfriend had posted sexually explicit images of her online and a video of them having sex after they had broken up.

The images had been online for year before Jane knew – and when she contacted the gardaí about the images they said there was nothing they could do because of the lack of legislation around the issue.

“The Garda I was dealing with said, ‘Jane I’m really sorry. It turns out it’s not illegal. We can’t actually do anything’,” Jane said.

Nudes

Harassment laws in Ireland

The laws covering so-called “revenge porn” in Ireland – the posting of sexually explicit images of a person online without their consent – are not fully formed.

However, a 2014 Law Reform Commission Issue Paper outlines the problems around laws to do with the broader issue of cyber-bullying.

Cyber-bullying falls under the heading of harassment, which is legislated for in Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act (1997).

Section 10 states:

(1) Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, by any means including by use of the telephone, harasses another by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her, shall be guilty of an offence.

The main point here is that harassment of another person must be persistent, and can be carried out by any means of communication.

This means, for example, that someone sending repeated emails to a person abusing them can be convicted of harassment.

However, with regards to posting “revenge porn” the situation isn’t as clear.

RevengePorn

Why isn’t ‘revenge porn’ illegal?

In Jane’s case, for example, her ex-partner posted explicit images of her online without her consent.

However, this action doesn’t fall under the legal definition of “persistent” harassment; this is true in other cases also, where a single act of uploading an image of a person doesn’t legally constitute harassment.

In an article for the Law Society Gazette, barrister Stephen Fitzpatrick outlined the problems this posed for victims of ‘revenge porn’.

“Unlike in other jurisdictions, the Irish offence of harassment requires that the behaviour be performed ‘persistently’,” Fitzpatrick wrote.

This potentially excludes the majority of revenge porn cases, as most involve a single act or spree of uploading.

In its Issue Report, the Law Reform Commission states that the laws may be too narrow for dealing with the specific problems to do with cyber-bullying.

While an image or video posted on the internet could be spread and copied thousands of times, the person who originally uploads it only needs to do so once – and this single act does not constitute “persistent harassment” and may not be technically illegal in this sense.

While there are other laws to do with data protection that the posting of images online may breach – the legislation around cyber-bullying isn’t fully developed.

For children there are stronger protections in place for privacy of images, however for adults the situation is not as clear cut.

Read the full The Journal article: goo.gl/yYY0Fg