Seanad debates

Friday, 18 December 2020

Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages


10:00 am

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 1:

1. In page 3, to delete lines 19 to 27, and substitute the following:
“ “intimate image” means a visual recording of a person made, with or without the consent, by any means including a photographic, film or video recording (whether or not the image of the person has been altered in any way)—
(a) (i) of his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts (whether covered by underwear or bare),
(ii) in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or

(iii) in which the person is engaged in sexual activity,
(b) in respect of which, if it was recorded with consent, at the time of the recording and afterwards, there were circumstances that gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy,

(c) any facsimile image, whether generated by computer graphics or in any other way, purporting to be the genital organs, anal region or breasts of the person or to be an image of the person engaged in any sexual activity, or

(d) any photographic or video-recorded image of the person, or any other person, manipulated so as to appear to be an image of the person’s genital organs, anal region or, in the case of a female, her breasts or of the person engaged in any sexual activity;”.

First, I want to thank the individual campaigners and organisations which have supported Deputies and Senators over the past number of weeks in strengthening this Bill with suggested amendments arising from their lived experience of supporting women and men affected by the issues in this Bill, particularly the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, RCNI, Safe Ireland, the National Observatory on Violence against Women and the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service.

Amendment No. 1 is a comprehensive rewriting of the definition of intimate image in the Bill and I thank the RCNI for its assistance in drafting it. This definition is key as it sets the parameters for the kinds of images and related offences that will be covered by this legislation. It is the definition on which this entire Bill is founded and on which its successful implementation will depend. I know that issues were raised with the previous definition and whether it was comprehensive enough in applying to so-called deep fakes, where an individual may have their image altered and superimposed onto sexual images of other bodies. These may not be intimate images of the individual, per se, but the distressing effect is obviously the same and indeed could potentially be worse.

I welcome that the Minister of State accepted an amendment to this section from Deputy O’Callaghan which resolves the deep fake issue. However, in my amendment, which is an edited version of one submitted by Deputies Pringle, Collins and Connolly, I am concerned that there is no explicit recognition in the definition of the principle of consent and that whether the image was taken with or without an individual’s consent is immaterial in defining it as an intimate image, which is why I have specifically included an additional clause of with or without consent in my proposed amendment.

Amendment No. 2 is also a rewording of a similar amendment tabled by Deputy Pringle. That amendment sought to expand and clarify that section 2, which is the principal section relating to the distribution of intimate images and would apply to various other related actions, including advertising, transmitting, and selling such images. The Minister of State, in responding to the amendment in the Dáil last night, said he believed that all such activities were adequately covered by the current wording with the exception of the “make available” clause. I am, therefore, proposing that such a clause be inserted into the section 2 offence.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 relate to additional and specific offences that have been called for by the various NGOs which advocate and provide services in this area. Amendment No. 3 would add a specific provision on making the recording of an intimate image with attempt to cause harm an offence. This was a provision that was contained in Deputy Howlin’s Bill, as initiated, but was removed during the Dáil debate. The Rape Crisis Network Ireland has called for the offence to be retained, stating in a submission made to all Senators that, "The fact of recording or the threat to record intimate images is every bit as capable of causing harm as their threatened or actual distribution or publication." I ask the Minister of State to comment on why such an important offence has been dropped and to consider reinstating it.

Amendment No. 4 relates to a specific additional offence of retaining intimate images. This was the specific wording asked for by Safe Ireland in their commentary on the Dáil Report Stage amendments circulated yesterday. If a person is holding or keeping intimate images with the intention of causing harm and distress, this should also be a criminal offence along with the distribution of images.


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