Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
I am delighted we have got to this stage of the debate on this important legislation. I want to thank the Minister, Deputy McEntee. Unfortunately she cannot be with us but I thank her for her co-operation with me in advancing this legislation to this point.
The net issue in this group of amendments is the definition of "intimate image". We are trying to ensure that the sharing of intimate images without consent is a criminal offence. Apparently that is a frequent occurrence and there is no legal impediment to it. It has been pointed out to us by Rape Crisis Network Ireland and a number of other agencies that the definition we originally put in the Bill does not cover all eventualities. I know we had some discussion on this on Committee Stage. The intimate images referred to in the Bill cover: "the person’s genitals, buttocks or anal region and, in the case of a female, her breasts", as enunciated in the interpretation section of the Bill that was passed on Committee Stage. All of the amendments in this group seek to achieve the same objective.
Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's amendment strikes me as a simple and neat solution. Rather than replacing paragraphs of the Bill, he simply wants to insert a few words in the original definition. Instead of defining an intimate image as I have already mentioned, we should insert before that: "what is, or purports to be" an image of a person's genitals and so on. With Photoshop and the superimposing of images on top of a recognised face, one can equally do significant harm. In my judgment, this would strengthen the Bill and I hope the Minister of State is in a position to accept one of these amendments. The neatest and clearest solution would be Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's proposition in amendment No. 5, to insert "what is, or purports to be" as well as the actual presentation of a person's genitals and so on. In other words, this is a superimposed image of genitalia on top of a recognised person. Unfortunately, that is a practice that apparently does go on and it is something that we should outlaw in this Bill if we can.