A young man who posted a collage of intimate images of his teenage girlfriend on social media to his 1,100 followers after they broke up has been jailed for six months.
The 20-year-old Dublin man, who can’t be named to protect the identity of his victim, committed the offence in 2021 just months after it became a criminal offence to post intimate images of someone online without their consent, defence counsel told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Monday.
The man pleaded guilty to one count of distributing intimate images of his ex-girlfriend without her consent within the State on September 21, 2021. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Dara Hayes noted that this was a new offence, the legislation for which only came into effect seven months before the man committed the offence.
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“It is a modern problem with the ubiquity of smart phones and the internet,” the judge said before he noted that because of the man’s followers the “potential audience” for those images was 1,100 people.
He also noted that the man could not know how many of those people saved the images or redistributed them. “That is something that cannot be controlled by him once it is sent out into the ether,” he said.
The judge said the need for general deterrence must weigh more heavily in these cases which are usually committed by men against a female partner and that a custodial sentence is required given the level of harm that can be caused.
Judge Hayes set a headline sentence of two years. He took into account various mitigating factors including the man’s plea of guilty and lack of previous convictions before he imposed a sentence of 18 months.
He suspended the final 12 months of that sentence on strict conditions including that the man engage with the probation service for 18 months, undergo any treatments as recommended by them, disclose any intimate partner relationship and not make any direct or indirect contact with the woman.
The man was 19 at the time of the offence, while his victim was 18. Some of the images he shared of her were taken when she was 17, Garda Mark Naul told the court.
The court heard that on the day in question, the man sent his ex-girlfriend’s friend a collage of four intimate images that had been taken of her in the course of their relationship. The couple had dated for about a year before breaking up.
The man then posted the same collage of images on Snapchat, where he has 1,100 followers, the court heard.
Gardaí were alerted and the man was arrested in October 2021. He made full admissions to gardaí.
The woman in the case did not wish to come to court for the sentence hearing. A victim impact statement was handed in but not read out.
James McCullough BL, defending, said his client was “immature” and “naive”. He has ADHD and was under the care of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) until he turned 18, the court heard.
Once discharged from this service, he stopped taking his prescribed medication. He is someone who “acts without thinking of the consequences”, the court heard.
Defence counsel said that when the man committed this offence, the legislation making it a crime had only come into effect some months previously.