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Newfoundland and Labrador government adds punishment for 'revenge porn'

Linda Ross, president of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, speaks to reporters Tuesday.
Linda Ross, president of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, speaks to reporters Tuesday. - David Maher

In addition to criminal court, civil lawsuits will be added for people who share intimate images without consent

The provincial government can’t stop people from sending nudes, but on Tuesday it introduced measures to protect those images from being shared without consent.

The Intimate Images Protection Act will allow civil lawsuits to be taken against people who share intimate images without consent. The act defines an intimate image as any recording of a person who is nude, or exposing genitals, or engaged in explicit sexual activity.

Those images can be shared with consent to as many people as the subject of the image would like, but once a person receives such an image, it is against the law to share that image with someone else.

It’s already a criminal act to share those images – with penalties up to five years in prison under federal law. The new legislation provides the use of civil lawsuits to penalize anyone sharing the images without consent.

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons introduced the legislation in May, but it’s only now that the legislation is making its way through the House of Assembly.

“Once it’s done, you can’t take back that pain,” said Parsons.

“I’d like these measures to be seen as a deterrent, for people to maybe think twice before they do this.”

Under the Criminal Code, there have been six convictions in this province so far this year. It’s hard to say how common civil lawsuits will be once the law comes into effect, once the bill makes it through the legislature.

The consequences for sending an intimate image without consent are fairly broad. The court can award any damages it sees fit to the victim, any money made from the image can be awarded to the victim, any injunction the court sees fit can be issued, and the court can “make any other order that the court considers just and reasonable in the circumstances.”

Any action in criminal court does not have an impact on a civil case, and vice versa.

In civil court, the onus is on the person accused of sharing the image to prove they had permission to share the image.

“The burden of proof is different in civil cases. It’s difficult. Imagine going through this and now having to prove that you didn’t give consent,” Parsons said.

“I think the negative action is on the person that shares it. If you want to do this, the burden is on you. The easy way to avoid it is, don’t do it. Don’t be stupid.”

Linda Ross, president of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, says, “The fact that the burden of proof is on the person who’s sharing the images, I think, is radically different than anything we’re accustomed to seeing.

“That in and of itself should give people pause for thought.”

Once the law passes, Parsons says, the next step is the school districts educating young people about the consequences of sharing intimate images without consent.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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