Law banning ‘revenge porn’ tabled in House of Assembly – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Law banning 'revenge porn' tabled in House of Assembly

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and justice minister (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Government yesterday proposed a law to outlaw “revenge porn” – the use of social media to spread intimate sexual images.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, said the practice was “a new form of technology-facilitated abuse” which humiliated and damaged its victims.

Ms Simmons, speaking in the House of Assembly, said present laws, that dated from the 1980s, did not tackle the new phenomenon where intimate images were “weaponised”.

Ms Simmons said: “Revenge porn typically occurs when someone shares, or makes threats to share, intimate images of a person without the person’s consent.

“Increasingly, intimate images are being recorded and stored on our smart phones.

“This means that in an instant an intimate image can be uploaded to a social media platform, forwarded or broadcast at the swipe of a finger with little concern about the longstanding consequences or harm to the person captured in the image.

“In no time at all, an intimate image uploaded to the internet can ‘trend’ or become ‘viral’ in an instant and is exceedingly difficult to remove permanently from the internet.”

The new law, if approved, will make it a crime to observe, record or distribute images or video of a person carrying out private or intimate acts and/or showing intimate parts of their body without their knowledge or permission.

Offenders will face a prison term of up to five years under the Criminal Code Amendment (Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Act 2021.

Ms Simmons said: “Weaponising intimate images, created under the trusting sanctity of a romantic relationship, can be used as a tool to inflict revenge when the relationship breaks down.

“Even though the intimate images may have been obtained in a consensual context, the parties are unlikely to have consented for the intimate images to be shared with third parties outside the relationship.”

Ms Simmons added that some victims of revenge porn became suicidal.

She said: “Undoubtedly, the stress and trauma imposed on the victims to such acts, and their families, can be far-reaching.

“In the gravest cases, affected persons have contemplated, attempted or committed suicide because of the associated distress and embarrassment.”

The law would also criminalise spreading digitally altered images.

Ms Simmons said: “The term ‘intimate image’ included images that had been digitally altered.

She added: “Digital alteration can be done to an image to depict intimate sexual activity or private body parts, and digital alteration can also apply when intimate sexual activity or private body parts are obscured, if the person in the image is still depicted in a sexual way.”

The law would also allow for “rectification orders” for the removal, recovery, deletion or destruction of offending images after a successful prosecution.

Ms Simmons said that the Government had studied laws in other countries as a guideline for the new legislation.

She added: “Canada’s and Queensland, Australia’s approach to such offences were considered in detail when formulating the policy.

“Accordingly, Queensland’s approach is primarily modelled in the bill being tabled today, as their Criminal Code amendments were considered most appropriate for Bermuda.

“Queensland’s criminal law prohibits the distribution, without consent, of an intimate image of another person in a manner that would cause distress reasonably arising in all of the circumstances.”

Ms Simmons said, although the new law would provide a deterrent to revenge porn, it had to be backed up by other laws to prevent repeat offenders.

She added: “This bill deals only with the criminal aspects of this issue.

Ms Simmons said: “It is important to note that the criminal law alone is sometimes a harsh instrument to address contemporary social issues.

“Deterring the offending behaviour and effective punishment must also be augmented with a more holistic societal approach encompassing civil law remedies, public awareness campaigns, education and other community-wide efforts to raise awareness about the associated dangers of recording intimate images.”

Ms Simmons added: “Individually, and collectively, we have a responsibility to be vigilant and discerning about our conduct in digital and online spaces.

“The assistance of the wider community is paramount to protecting our youth, especially, as they navigate their maturation in a digital, social media, age.

“It is anticipated that this new law will directly protect victims of revenge porn and others whose privacy would be violated by misuse of intimate images and private recordings.

“It will indirectly protect societal values, by upholding privacy and personal protections from the irreparable harm that such violations inevitably impose on others.”

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Published March 20, 2021 at 8:42 am (Updated March 20, 2021 at 6:32 pm)

Law banning 'revenge porn' tabled in House of Assembly

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