2 years in prison or $50K fine for ‘revenge porn’ offenders

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Perpetrators can now face two years in prison or a $50,000 fine for posting an intimate photo or video of another person without their consent – closing a loophole that saw many victims of what is known as ‘revenge porn’, go without justice.

Child abuse (file picture)

MP Louisa Wall's law change to explicitly outlaw the posting of intimate images without consent passed with support from all parties in Parliament on Wednesday evening, while protesters rioted, and fires burned out on the front lawn.

Now, a person is breaking the law if they either knew the victim did not express consent to it being posted, or have been "reckless as to whether the victim had done so" to be breaking the proposed law. It specifies that a person under 16 can not consent to the posting of an intimate image or video.

The court can also now order the material to be taken down or disabled, and an apology to be published. Body corporates can be fined up to $200,000 for posting the recording without consent.

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MPs made powerful speeches in the House, with Labour's Louisa Wall speaking about the lack of recognition the law had for the harm caused.

"Perpetrators' motivations for this type of abuse are that they do it for fun, they do it to be sexy, they do it to increase friends. They do it to maintain relationships, for attention, for revenge, to embarrass their partner, to control their partner, for financial gain, and to obtain further images.

"In all instances there is no understanding or thought to the harmful impacts upon the victim and there's no recognition that image-based sexual abuse is harmful."

National's Nicola Grigg said it was, "a very important change to a piece of legislation, by closing an existing gap".

"It goes without saying that the unauthorised disclosure of intimate visual recordings is a form of gender-based violence, and very shamefully for this country."

Green's Golriz Ghahraman said the law change meant it took away the "incredibly high onus that the previous law placed on victims to prove not only that the harm had occurred".

She said the harm caused "is incredibly deep and long-standing".

"Whatever the intention of that abuse, it's an incredibly dehumanising way of treating that person for having shared their sexuality and it is always abusive, always a form of sexual violence, and, in the context of relationships, a form of intimate partner violence."

MP Ginny Andersen said the law change meant now "the mere action of posting that image without consent, there is harm implied within that action".

"That is a significant step forward for victims of sexual violence online because it enables greater action to be taken early on for things such as take-down orders in order to remove those images as quickly as possible.

"Victims are exposed to the threat of being stalked, attacked, bullied, and stigmatised, particularly if their contact details are published alongside their images."

Read More:‘Emotionally disturbing’ - Revenge porn victim’s battle for justice

Labour's Emily Henderson said she knows women and girls, "particularly girls, in my life who have had this happen to them, and it is appalling in its impact".

"While the courts are working really hard to pull themselves out of outdated ideas, the fact remains that we still have a judiciary who tend to underestimate the violence done by sexual offending. A bit of a laugh and a bit of a lad is still something that is seen as a real thing by some of our judiciary.

"It is a very, very proud moment, and I am very, very grateful to be able to stand to talk to you about this now as we address some of the underlying misogyny that has been running through our law for so long. Well, no more."

Sarah Pallet said the behaviour of posting intimate images without consent can not be described as "laddish".

"I have a high opinion of men and I agree with the Women's Refuge adviser who said that revenge porn is a strategy to degrade and exercise control over former partners, and we have seen the highlighting of a lack of awareness among police and courts of how these instances are really part of a larger and insidious pattern of coercive control and degradation."

ACT's Nicole McKee said she was disappointed a proposed change by the Green Party to the bill to include images that are altered to appear like a person, such as deep-fakes, was not agreed to.

McKee said she was happy that there was change to who could be a victim to include a recipient of a harmful digital communication of someone else.

"This was important when we heard of the story of a son receiving intimate visual communications of his mother from another man."

McKee also acknowledged the "victims who have considered, or who have even successfully taken their own lives because of this harm".

MP Glen Bennett said as "a male speaking to this piece of legislation, I realised that we as men must speak up".

"I was going to say to our children how we live our lives better and how we do this better, but I realised, actually, I need to be talking to my peers, I need to be talking to my seniors, and I need to be talking to my friends about the fact that 'boys will be boys - it's just a joke' is no longer acceptable in the 21st century.

"The whole phrase of 'boys will be boys' is just something that should be no more."

1News reported in 2018 the then-law was not fit for purpose, as it required harm to be intended and the victim to undergo severe emotional distress.

This meant the accused could argue there was no harm intended, while a subjective view of 'severe emotional distress' was interpreted differently by judges.

In one previous case, a judge told the court “morally repugnant or merely upsetting” did not equate to ‘serious emotional distress’, instead the victim needed to have undergone medical treatment or counselling.