Why a federal civil penalty regime for non-consensual sharing of intimate images?
Existing criminal laws have led to the conviction of ‘revenge porn’ perpetrators in the past, so why are civil penalties necessary?
22 May 2017
The Government has commenced a consultation on a proposed civil penalty regime for the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’. While perpetrators have been charged in the past for such offences, this proposed regime will give the eSafety Commissioner new powers to investigate complaints and take action to remove or limit the distribution of intimate images shared without consent, as well as placing strong and consistent regulation at the Commonwealth level to protect Australians from this form of abuse.
At the Commonwealth level, the Criminal Code Act 1995 provides for offences relating to the misuse of telecommunications services to menace, harass or cause offence, carrying a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $32,400. There have been almost 900 charges proven against over 400 defendants under this offence, including a number of cases in relation to ‘revenge porn’ conduct. There are also a range of existing state-based laws which have been used in cases of sharing of intimate images without consent, including laws in Victoria that are specific to this form of abuse. However, the laws differ from state to state, which can make it difficult for victims to understand the protections that are in place for them and the penalties that exist for perpetrators.
The introduction of a civil penalty regime at the Commonwealth level would provide a complementary avenue to the existing criminal justice system, as well as clear and consistent regulation to penalise and deter this behaviour Australia-wide. A regime specific to the non-consensual sharing of intimate images could also include provisions that ensure offending images and videos are removed quickly through the issue of take down notices, a measure that is not currently covered by existing Commonwealth legislation.