Gardaí begin investigations into online harassment complaints

Inquiries believed to be linked to sharing of thousands of intimate images of Irish women

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, also known as Coco’s Law, created two new offences which criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, also known as Coco’s Law, created two new offences which criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

 

Gardaí have begun investigating “a number of complaints of harassment” under Coco’s Law, which came into effect earlier this month.

The inquiries are believed to be linked to the sharing of thousands of intimate images of Irish women online.

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, also known as Coco’s Law, created two new offences which criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

The first offence deals with the distribution or publication of intimate images without consent and with intent to cause harm. The penalties applicable can be an unlimited fine and/or seven years imprisonment.

The second offence deals with the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent even if there is no specific intent to cause harm. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment

The legislation was named after Nicole Fox (21), who took her own life in 2018 after being bullied on social media.

Victims Alliance Ireland informed gardaí last November of online forums which were sharing thousands of intimate images of Irish women without their knowledge or consent.

The lobby group said the forums contained links to files which had between 5,000 and 6,000 images, some of which had been screenshotted from social media pages such as Instagram, dating apps such as Tinder and the subscription site OnlyFans.

“Following an assessment into allegations concerning the posting, sharing and uploading of personal images online An Garda Síochána determined that no criminal offences were disclosed under legislation in force at that time,” a Garda spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

“The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 was commenced on February 9th, 2021.

“An Garda Síochána have already commenced a number of complaints of harassment under this legislation.”

Any person who is concerned that they have been the victim of harassment following the uploading of personal explicit imagery online without their consent, at any time, should contact their local Garda station.

“An Garda Síochána has specialist protective service units in every Garda division and all complaints will be investigated sensitively and professionally,” it said.