Pupils alleged to have shared topless photo of teacher ‘unlikely’ to face prosecution

Laws aimed at tackling cyberharassment have yet to be drafted, say legal experts

Cyberharassment: The Law Reform Commission has recommended a specific offence to address the publishing of intimate photos or videos of another person

Cyberharassment: The Law Reform Commission has recommended a specific offence to address the publishing of intimate photos or videos of another person

 

A pupil who is alleged to have circulated a topless photograph of his teacher on social media is unlikely to face any prosecution due to a lack of cyberharassment laws, according to legal experts.

A south Dublin secondary school suspended the transition-year student for five days after he was said to have copied the image from a tablet computer given to him by a teacher.

The image was later circulated to a wider audience on a social media network, according to the Herald newspaper.

While it was reported that the child’s guardians were unhappy that the teacher had such material on a computer, authorities familiar with the details of the incident are understood to be satisfied there was no inappropriate action on the part of the teacher.

Amendment

While there have been plans to legislate for cyberharassment in an amendment to harassment legislation, no such laws have yet been drafted.

The Law Reform Commission has recommended a specific offence to address the publishing of intimate photos or videos of another person. However, no such legislation has yet been drafted.

In a new advisory report submitted to the Oireachtas, child law expert Prof Geoffrey Shannon stated that children can be both victims and perpetrators of cyberharassment-related activities.

However, he added that it must be borne in mind that “children can act with haste and absent-mindedness due to immaturity”.

“Where appropriate, children should not be introduced into the criminal justice system and suitable alternative means of addressing such conduct need to be considered,” he wrote.

Criminal prosecution

Prof Shannon said while the criminal law seeks to prohibit certain behaviour and punish those who do not adhere to its provisions, a criminal prosecution is usually not the first priority for victims of cyber or digital harassment.

“Quite often, the real remedy sought by persons so affected is what is termed a ‘take down’ – the immediate removal of the offending publication or image from the website it has been posted on.”

He said it was often difficult to have a social media company remove a posting and companies regularly place a premium on policies in aid of free speech.

“Each company operates its own self-regulated code in that regard. The ad-hoc nature of existing take-down processes, which are dependent on each company’s specific policies, means that individuals are at the mercy of each company, its regime and approach as to whether it will take the impugned material down and how quickly it will do so,” he wrote.