Thursday 12 December 2019

Teen pondered suicide after images shared, TDs to be told

Labour’s Brendan Howlin
Labour’s Brendan Howlin

A teenager contemplated suicide after she sent images to a former boyfriend who went on to share them with others without her permission.

TDs and senators will be told how the girl (16) told Childline about her shocking ordeal as the Oireachtas Justice Committee considers new laws aimed at cracking down on so-called 'revenge porn'.

The girl's case is to be outlined by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) which welcomes the Bill first put forward by Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

Proposed new offences which have been adopted by the Government include the taking and distributing of intimate images without consent, online harassment and so-called 'up-skirting'.

ISPCC chief executive John Church will tell TDs and senators how the charity is "acutely aware of the long-term and devastating consequences... cyberbullying can have on children".

Mr Church's statement says that children and young people lack the maturity of adults, can be impulsive, and may not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions online.


He will say that the ISPCC does not advocate the criminalisation of under-18s and that instead "it is essential they are educated and empowered to act differently in future". Entry into the Garda Youth Diversion Programme is suggested as a "more appropriate response".

Mr Church's statement says online safety education in schools is a "key component in preventing activities occurring in the first instance".

A statement by gardai to the committee says that children are increasingly sharing "self-taken imagery where they send nude and/or sexually explicit personal photographs of each other to other members of a chat group" on social media platforms. It says this has given rise to a new form of bullying.

The garda statement also warns of an "added danger" where images are circulated beyond the confines of friends to third parties "who may use them as a trap to engage with a child".

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland's statement says its clients "of all ages" are reporting "more and more forms of online sexual harassment".

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