“Revenge Porn” laws were finally passed earlier this year. The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 (also known as “Coco’s Law”) became law and has already been used in one case here in Kilkenny. This law this brings in long needed protection for the victims of online harassment.
There are three main offences under the Act. Someone who distributes or threatens to share intimate images without consent and with intent to cause harm. For serious offence of this nature the fine is unlimited and the offender can be subject to up to seven years in prison.
The second main offence is recording and distributing intimate images without consent, if that interferes with someone’s privacy even if the person does not intend to cause harm. This offence attracts a fine of up to €5,000 or 12 months in jail. And the third main offence is distributing or sending grossly or offensive communication with the intent of causing harm. The penalty is €5,000 or up to 6 months in jail, or if the offence is at the serious end of the scale, then there is no limit on the fine and imprisonment can be up to 2 years.
The Act also extends a liability to the Directors of Limited Companies if a company is found guilty of an offence. This might be to widen the net so companies have to take more responsibility for what is being published or shared by them.
The law has its origins in the terrible abuse faced by Nicole Fox. Known affectionately as “Coco” by her family, Nicole was 21 years old when she died by suicide after suffering years of horrific online abuse that started just after she turned 18. This new Act is long overdue to protect victims – particularly with the spread of Social Media and electronic communication. It is simply too easy to send or share offensive pictures as revenge on someone or to harass them.