On Wednesday 16 August, important new laws were passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly that make it clear that it is a crime to share intimate images of a person without their consent.

Women’s Centre for Health Matters had previously participated in consultation on this issue with the office of MLA Caroline Le Couteur, who had also drafted legislation to make non-consensual sharing of intimate images a criminal offence. On Tuesday 15 August, we met with MLA Jeremy Hanson, along with representatives from ACTCOSS and Domestic Violence Crisis Service, as we had been advised his legislation would be tabled the next day. During our meeting with Mr Hanson, we talked about a number of issues relating to the wording of the legislation, and the need for training and education for police and the community once the laws were passed.

These are the things that are now crimes, attracting jail time or heavy fines if a person is convicted:

  • Distributing or sharing an intimate image without consent (either knowingly, or because of recklessness about whether the person in the image consented) – up to 3 years in jail or $45,000 fine.
  • Threatening to take an intimate image without consent, or distribute or share without consent – up to 3 years in jail or $45,000 fine.
  • Failing to comply with a court order to take down or destroy images – up to 2 years in jail or a $30,000 fine.

Where the offence relates to a child or young person under 16 years old, the sentence is much higher, as this crosses the line into child exploitation. People under this age are too young to consent, as with other offences relating to sexual relationships and consent.

For young people aged 14 or over who share their own image with another young person within 2 years of their own age, and who consent to sharing their own image, there is an exception to the law about consent. Again, this is consistent with other laws relating to sexual relationships between young people. The intent is to protect young people from criminal convictions when they are consenting to share images with each other, but to still provide protection if they have not consented to their image being taken or shared by another young person, and to protect them from exploitation by others.

An intimate image is defined as an image of a person’s private parts (including breasts for someone who is female, or transgender or intersex and identifies as female), whether naked or covered by underwear. Intimate images also include a person engaged in a private act, such as undressing, using the toilet or showering, or engaging in sexual activity that would not normally be done in public. It also includes an image that has been altered so that it looks like you can see a person’s private parts, or looks like the person is engaging in a private act.

Making the law clear on this area is an important first step in changing community attitudes towards intimate images, and reinforces that consent and respect are key aspects of healthy relationships. For more information, read our article about the new laws on Riot-ACT.