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Seminar: Criminalisation, new technologies and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images

By Thomas Crofts, Sydney Institute of Criminology; Tyrone Kirchengast, UNSW

Mon 3 Apr 2017
12:30pm - 2:00pm


Room 813, 8/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

The taking and distributing of intimate and sexually explicit images (sexting) by adults has received relatively little legal attention until recent years (unlike sexting by young people). Where it occurs consensually between adults it is seen as unproblematic and perhaps desirable, as a way to add excitement to a relationship. Problems arise when images are non-consensually distributed to others or there is a threat to do so – often following the break down in a relationship or the result of a desire to coerce and control a partner.

This is often colloquially and problematically termed ‘revenge pornography’. Images may be distributed, or there may be threats to distribute, in order to shame and humiliate victims, and may, in family violence contexts, be used to coerce a person to engage in non-consensual acts, stay in the relationship or refrain from pursuing criminal charges or an intervention order.

In such situations, discourse changes from the images adding spice and excitement to a relationship to shaming and blaming the subject for allowing such images to be taken. This complexity resonates in the law reform process, with many common law jurisdictions grappling with the creation of a ‘revenge porn’ offence, its elements and available defences.

While legal advancements have sought to respond to the harms and varied contexts in which revenge pornography occurs, the development of adequate criminal and civil laws to capture this conduct has been a vexed and complicated process. This seminar examines the adequacy of existing legal responses to revenge pornography and the need to develop appropriate legal responses.

Professor Thomas Crofts is Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology. He is a graduate of University College London (LLB (Hons)), the Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg, Germany (LLM) and the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/O., Germany (Dr iur). His research is in criminal law, criminology and criminal justice centres on criminalisation and criminal responsibility with a particular focus on the criminal responsibility of, and for, children, comparative criminal law and criminal law reform.

Dr Tyrone Kirchengast is a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law at the University of New South Wales, Australia. He has published widely on the integration of victims in the criminal trial. His recent work examines the role of victim impact statements in homicide sentencing; the rise of private counsel for victims of crime; victim rights as human rights in international and domestic law; the emergence of enforceable victim rights; criminal law reform; and the normative aspects of adversarial justice.

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