News & Media

Early passage into law of Labour’s Online Harassment Bill urgent

18 November 2020

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Brexit, Northern Ireland and Justice
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  • Labour Bill will outlaw image based sexual abuse by creating a new offence of distributing an intimate image without consent


Labour Justice Spokesperson Brendan Howlin has said the early passage into law of Labour’s Online Harassment Bill is urgent. Deputy Howlin was speaking after a large caché of illicit images were leaked on the internet.

Deputy Howlin said:

“This latest development makes the early passage into law of the Harassment, Online Bullying and Related Offences Bill even more urgent.

“As we see here today, women are also too often the targets of online abuse, and this Bill will protect them against so-called 'revenge porn' by creating a new offence of distributing an intimate image without consent.

“Revenge porn has been a sexual offence in the UK since 2015 and 206 people were prosecuted in the first year of the new law.

“This Bill in my name is due to go for Committee Stage debate on the 1st. of December. With all party agreement we should aim to have the Bill passed before the end of the year.

“I met with the Justice Minister, Helen McEntee and she shares my determination to work to achieve this timeline and we intend to clear committee stage on that day and will work jointly to have this legislation enacted before the end of the year.

“The appalling case of these leaked images clearly illustrates the urgent need for changes in the law and I’ve been seeking this for several years. Image based sexual abuse is a serious issue that is becoming more prevalent and must be adequately addressed with updated criminal law.

“Too many vulnerable people both young and old are affected by online harm bullying and harassment. That private intimate images of young people can be shared online is totally unacceptable.