Using a carriage service to harass
The Victorian parliament has passed ‘sexting’ laws in November, 2014, prohibiting the sharing of another’s intimate images without their consent.
Where the depicted individual is younger than 18, consent is irrelevant.
The two new offences of “threat to distribute intimate image” and “distribution of intimate image” were introduced by the Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Act 2014.
Threatened or actual sharing of intimate images can land the sender in prison for up to 1 and 2 years respectively.
These laws apply only to malicious, exploitative messaging where the distribution is “against community standards”.
The new laws refer to the community standards test, where the Courts are directed to consider “the context in which the image was captured and distributed, the personal circumstances of the person depicted, and the degree to which their privacy is affected by the distribution”, as explained by Robert Clark, Attorney-General of Victoria.
As Civil Liberty Australia (‘CLA’) has commended, the community standards test recognises the “rapidly evolving” attitudes towards technology and its uses.
It does so without holding future Victorians to current norms, adjusting to new social contexts.
The contemporary Act recognises the commonality of sending intimate messages to a loved one.
McAfee’s 2014 ‘Love Relationships and Technology’ revealed that nearly half of Australia’s adult population had received a sext message, and younger Australians had picked up on the trend too.
Previously, when student couples under the age of 18 were caught receiving intimate messages they would be charged for possession of child pornography.
Added to the sex offenders list, their career prospects and reputation would suffer for decades after.
The amending Act also plugs this loop-hole, adding an exception for the private exchange of intimate photos for under-age persons with an age gap of 2 years or less.
Praise has been swift for the innovative laws, with CLA proposing it as a “model” for a suite of legislation in other jurisdictions.
The rest of Australia awaits to see how these new laws will work in practice, before looking to adopt similar laws across Australia, for an issue that is a technologically inspired sign of the times.
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