A NEW bill, which is focused on criminalising the sharing of intimate images without consent, has been signed into law, but a West Cork TD has said more needs to be done to address issues around consent at a social and cultural level.
Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns welcomed the news that President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins signed the new Harassment, Harmful Communications, and Related Offences Bill 2017 into law today.
The bill, also known as Coco’s Law after a young woman who died by suicide following bullying, makes it an offence to distribute intimate images without consent.
If such images are distributed with intent to cause harm, there is a penalty of an unlimited fine or up to seven years imprisonment.
A second offence, of sharing images without intent to cause harm, will carry a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months in prison.
It is irrelevant that a person may have consented to an image being taken, if it is subsequently published or distributed without their consent.
Ms Cairns said that the bill would help bring peace of mind to people, but she also said that more needed to be done.
“It will be of considerable reassurance to people, young women in particular, that this legislation has passed,” she said.
“We knew it was wrong to share images of people without their consent, now it is a criminal act.
“However, we also must have social and cultural change in this area.”
Ms Cairns said young people need to be educated around consent and made more aware of the dangers online.
“We need more education on consent in schools and colleges, greater awareness around online safety, and most importantly, people need to have zero tolerance for the sharing of intimate images,” she said.
Finally, the Social Democrat TD said there was a need for Government organisations to be adequately equipped to handle cases of this kind.
“There is also a need for more resources and training to help the gardaí and social services deal with these crimes.”