Law catches up with modern day problem

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Most people consider sex to be somewhat of a taboo subject preferring not to discuss the topic publicly.

With the advent of technology including smart phones with photograph and video recording capabilities however, more and more people, particularly young women, are finding themselves victims of unscrupulous former lovers sharing or publishing intimate photographs and videos without their permission.

There are a myriad of electronic platforms through which people are able to share photographs including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, the Internet in general and possibly the most common platform for sharing X-rated imagery, Snapchat.

A recent study by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that as much as 50 per cent of Australians between the ages of 16 to 18 had sent a sexual picture or video of themselves to another person while up to 70 per cent of people had received one.

A study by RMIT University in Monash University found that one in five Australians had had nude or sexual images of themselves shared without their consent.

In response to this, amendments were made to the Crimes Act, 1900 in New South Wales in 2017 making it illegal to distribute intimate images of another person without consent, to record intimate images of another person without consent or even to simply threaten to do so.

This act is now a criminal offence with penalties at the most severe end of the scale including a maximum of three years imprisonment and fines of up to $11,000.

Importantly, Courts who hear these types of matters can also make Orders that the relevant images or recordings be removed from the platform to which they have been posted and if offenders fail to do so, the Court can oppose an additional two years jail and/or fine on top of the original fine up to a maximum of $5,500.

While these reforms are a good example of the law adapting to social norms and technological advances, it is also important that teenagers and young people are educated as to these changes.

Law reform lobbyists are currently consulting with Government to include education programs as a potential outcome of these types of offences to ensure that young people who simply misjudge what is and what is not appropriate are not put in the same category as calculated sex offenders, particularly in the context of young people who may not have a complete understanding of the potential outcomes of committing this type of offence.

That said, there would be very few people in modern society who don’t know that sharing an intimate image or recording sent to them by a lover or romantic partner is the wrong thing to do so on balance, these reforms are necessary and positive.

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