Since 9 February 2021, new laws apply to the sharing of intimate images without the consent of the person in the images. If you record, distribute or publish intimate images without the permission of the person featured in the images (sometimes called the subject of the images), you are guilty of an offence.
Depending on your intent in sharing the images, you can face a maximum prison sentence of up to 7 years. Protections have been put in place to ensure that the alleged victim is not further harmed or embarrassed during any prosecution.
What is an intimate image?
Intimate images are broadly defined in the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, also known as “Coco’s Law”.
Intimate images include any photograph or video of:
- A person’s genitals, buttocks or anal region (and, in the case of women, their breasts)
- The underwear covering these parts of the body
- A naked person
- A person engaged in any form of sexual activity
There are 2 separate criminal offences for the making or sharing of intimate images that cause harm. Harm can take many forms but includes anything which seriously interferes with the victim’s peace or privacy, or which causes alarm or distress.
1. Intent to cause harm
The first, more serious offence is distributing, publishing or threatening to distribute or publish an intimate image without consent and with the intent to cause harm or being reckless as to whether harm is caused (knowing but not necessarily intending for harm to be caused). This is sometimes known as revenge porn.
If you are found guilty of this offence, you can be sentenced to a class A fine or a maximum prison term of 12 months or both in the District Court. More serious versions of the offence can be prosecuted in the Circuit Court such as where a large number of intimate images are released or where the intimate images are shared to a wide audience. If you are found guilty of this offence in the Circuit Court, you can be sentenced to an unlimited fine or maximum prison term of 7 years or both.
2. No specific intent to cause harm
The second, less serious offence is recording, distributing or publishing an intimate image without consent even if there was no specific intent to cause harm. This offence would cover situations such as sharing intimate images of someone you do not know.
For example, you may receive an intimate image of a person you do not know in a social media message. If you republish that image without the permission of the subject, you could be liable for prosecution under this offence, even if you did not intend to cause harm to the person in the image.
If you are found guilty of this offence, you can be sentenced to a class A fine or a maximum prison term of 12 months or both in the District Court.
Prosecution of children
Any prosecution of a child under 17 years of age under the Act can only be brought with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Further protection for alleged victims
If a person is prosecuted for these criminal offences, the alleged victim is granted anonymity – this means that they cannot be named or identified.
Unless a court allows the publication of the identity of the alleged victim, any person who names or publishes any information likely to identify the alleged victim may also be prosecuted for a criminal offence.
If you are found guilty of the offence of identifying an alleged victim, you can be sentenced to a class B fine or maximum prison term of 12 months or both in the District Court. If you are found guilty of this offence in the Circuit Court, you can be sentenced to an unlimited fine or a maximum prison term of 3 years or both.
Who to contact
If you believe that intimate images are being shared unlawfully, you should report the matter to an Garda Síochána, the national police force.