Now a crime in ACT to share an intimate photo without consent

Now a crime in ACT to share an intimate photo without consent

The ACT's three major parties have passed a bill that makes it a crime to share an intimate photo without consent.

People who publish, or threaten to publish, "revenge porn" now face up to three years in jail or a $45,000 fine, after the ACT's parliament moved to bring the territory's laws up-to-date with technology.

Voting yes: former ACT Liberals leader Jeremy Hanson.

Voting yes: former ACT Liberals leader Jeremy Hanson. Credit:Rohan Thomson

The penalties are bumped up to five years in jail or a fine of up to $75,000 if the victim is aged under 16. The laws would not capture teenagers consensually "sexting".

Courts can now order people to take down or delete the intimate image. Those who fail to comply can face up to two years' jail or a $30,000 fine.


One in three people aged 16 to 19 and one in four aged 20 to 29 have experienced at least one kind of image-based abuse, researchers with RMIT found.

The laws come close to a year after five ACT schools were caught in a pornography ring where teenage boys and young men are secretly exchanging graphic sexual images of female students.

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre service director Penny Pestano said they had 10 new inquiries this week from young people with electronic and social media issues.

Canberra Liberals' legal affairs spokesman Jeremy Hanson brought the bill forward, and said it finally provided victims of image-based abuse with legal recourse.

"Broadly perpetrators were getting away with this, the only remedies were through civil action rather than through the criminal code and that's a difficult process, to sue somebody," Mr Hanson said.

Labor amended the bill to remove protections that would have stopped minors from being prosecuted without the consent of the Director of Prosecutions.

Acting Attorney-General Mick Gentleman said the changes allowed anyone who shared intimate images without consent to be charged, regardless of age.

"It does go very strongly to supporting victims as well as ACT Policing in their operations. It gives them now a particular law to focus on to ensure they can issue warrants, make judgements and of course bring those people to court," Mr Gentleman said.

The Greens had their own version of the bill but helped to pass the Liberals' version to close the gaps in the laws faster.

Greens crossbencher Caroline Le Couteur remained concerned the laws did not go far enough.

"What's missing from it is a really good definition of consent because what we're talking about are things that are either consented to or not consented to," Ms Le Couteur said.

"The Greens would like to see a positive definition of consent, free and voluntary agreement that is communicated to the other party and if that happens, that will bring the ACT in line with other jurisdictions, all who have moved towards a positive definition of consent."

Ms Le Couteur indicated the Greens would introduce a bill to change the definition of consent later in the year.

Their legislation would go some way to tackle stealthing, she said.

Ms Pestano said the rape crisis centre would support a positive definition of consent, "possibly creating more onus towards the offender to prove that consent was received rather than the victim proving that it was not given".

Mr Hanson said the Liberals could not support the definition of consent put forward by the Greens in their revenge porn bill and would look at introducing their own laws to crack down on the practice.

Mr Gentleman said Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay would assess the Greens' consent bill when it came before the Assembly.


He said Mr Ramsay was also examining stealthing laws.

"This legislation covers most of the work we really need to do in this space to ensure the protection of victims. We'll look at other legislation as it comes forward." Mr Ramsay said.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.