Revenge Port Offences in Queensland

Recently on an episode of the very popular reality television show ‘Married at First Sight’, one of the contestants did something to one of the other contestants which has stirred up a lot of debate and controversy.  To those who are not familiar with the show, it is a ‘social experiment’ where a number of people are ‘married’ to another person that they have not previously met, but rather selected by a panel of experts who believe that they will be well suited.  They then live and behave as though they are real married couples.

As you can imagine, many fights and dramas often develop during this experiment.  Recently, two of the female contestants have been fighting like cats and dogs.  One of the females then discovered that the other female had posted a nude photo of herself on the internet, that was obtainable through a paid subscription service, and shared this photo with some of the other contestants.

This sort of behaviour is becoming much more common in society, mainly because of the growing trend in people (particularly younger people) to share intimate photos of themselves.  Where it usually goes wrong is when these people, who are once close or in a relationship, begin to fight or the relationship ends on bad terms.

Why were ‘revenge porn’ laws introduced?

In February 2019, the Queensland government passed legislation criminalising the publication of ‘revenge porn.’ The Criminal Code (Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Amendment Act 2018 amends the Criminal Code, creating three revenge porn offences consisting of the publication, without a person’s consent, of intimate images or videos of the person, or making a threat to do so.

The change follows widespread public pressure on governments to denounce the practice of sharing intimate images and videos as a form on online harassment. Sharing, or threatening to share ‘revenge porn’ is often used to blackmail the subject, to coerce them to continue a relationship or to punish them for ending a relationship. Revenge porn offences have been introduced in a number of countries and the practice has been denounced as a form of domestic violence, sexual abuse and psychological abuse.

What is revenge porn?

The law in Queensland defines intimate images as including a moving or still image that depicts:

  • A person engaged in a sexual act
  • The genital or anal region when it is bare or covered only by underwear; or
  • The bare breasts of a female; or
  • An image that has been altered to appear to show any of the above.

This includes any image that has been digitally obscured, so that a part of the image is not clear.

Revenge porn offences and penalties

There are now three revenge porn offences in the Criminal Code, all of which attract prison sentences.

  1. Distributing intimate images

Under Section 223 of the Criminal Code Act, it is an offence to distribute intimate images of a person without the person’s consent in a way that would reasonably cause the person distress. It is irrelevant whether the person distributing the images intended to cause distress or actually caused distress. The maximum penalty for this offence imprisonment for three years.

Consent means free and voluntarily given agreement by a person with the cognitive capacity to consent. A person under 16 is incapable of giving consent for the purpose of this provision.

It is a defence to a charge under this section if the person distributing the images was doing so for a genuine artistic, educational, legal, medical, scientific or public benefit purpose and their conduct was reasonable for that purpose.

  1. Distributing prohibited visual recordings

Under Section 227B, it is an offence to distribute prohibited visual recordings of a person without the person’s consent. Prohibited visual recordings include:

  • A recording of a person engaged in a private act, in circumstances where a person would be expected to be accorded privacy;
  • A recording that shows a person’s genital or anal region when it is bare or covered only by underwear, made in circumstances where a person would expect to be afforded privacy

The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for three years.

  1. Threats to distribute images or recordings

Under Section 229A of the Criminal Code, a person commits an offence if they threaten to distribute intimate images or a prohibited visual recording of a person:

  • without the person’s consent; and
  • in a way that would reasonably cause the person distress; and
  • in a way that would reasonably cause the other person fear of the threat being carried out.
  • This offence attracts a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.

For this offence, it is irrelevant whether the intimate image or recording actually exists and whether the person making the threat intends to cause fear of the threat being carried out, or actually causes such fear.

Rectification order

When a court finds a person guilty of revenge porn offences, it can order the offender to remove, delete or destroy the intimate images or prohibited visual recording involved within a stated timeframe. If the offender fails to comply with such an order, they can be found guilty of a further offence, punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment.

If you’re needing advice or assistance with legal matters, Cridland & Hua are the specialists amongst Brisbane Law Firms, practising exclusively in criminal and quasi-criminal law. Contact us today.

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