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Revenge porn to be a crime with up to two years in prison

By Michael McHugh

Published 12/02/2016

England and Wales already have laws outlawing the publication of explicit sexual images and videos of former partners
England and Wales already have laws outlawing the publication of explicit sexual images and videos of former partners
Olivia O'Kane

Revenge porn is to become a criminal offence carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison.

The DUP's Alastair Ross proposed the measure - already in place in England and Wales - and it was accepted by MLAs.

"It will send a message to perpetrators that such behaviour will not be tolerated," Mr Ross said.

"We all now have smartphones capable of taking photographs and videos, all of which can be shared online.

"Therefore I think that the law needs to keep pace with technological changes and recognise the world that we live in today.

"The justice committee believes that introducing an offence to deal with revenge porn will assist the police and the Public Prosecution Service in tackling this obnoxious crime." Olivia O'Kane, a media lawyer at Belfast law firm Carson McDowell, said that creating a specific offence "brings clarity and transparency to the law which will hopefully encourage victims to come forward to seek help".

She added: "It provides transparency and acts as a deterrent. Any piece of legislation which provides clarity and a greater understanding for police officers, prosecutors and the public to know and understand what they should be looking for when investigating these crimes can only be a positive change."

In 2014 Una Crossen, from west Belfast, revealed how she had been left feeling violated and totally betrayed after secretly filmed explicit footage of her was sent to an adult website. Ms Crossen said she still felt sick to her stomach because she feared that the sex tape made by her former boyfriend without her consent could still be found on the internet.

The 22-year-old trainee accountant told the Belfast Telegraph that the previous year had been a living nightmare, and that she now felt she could no longer trust men.

Una originally reported the matter to the police, but she was told nothing could be done. She eventually received legal aid to launch court action.

Her former partner - Patrick Brendan Campbell from north Belfast - later accepted an undertaking in court that he would not harass Ms Crossen or publish or reproduce any material or videos, particularly of an explicit nature, which would interfere with her right to privacy.

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