Written by  Joseph Burke 2013-12-11

Changes to sexting laws proposed in Victoria

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Earlier this year, the Law Reform Committee tabled its final report for an inquiry into sexting. The report can be downloaded from here.

An interesting aspect of the report was its recommendation that young people who create explicit images of themselves should be protected from prosecution for child pornography offences. The report noted that although it is not aware of any cases in Australia where a person involved in purely consensual sexting had been prosecuted, such cases have occurred in the United States. The following case study appears in page 47 of the report:

A.H. v. State (Florida)

A 16 year-old girl, A.H., and her 17-year-old boyfriend, J.G.W., engaged in consensual legal sex. They took digital pictures of themselves naked and engaged in sexual conduct, and afterwards A.H. emailed the pictures to J.G.W. The couple did not show the pictures to anyone, but somehow word of the photos’ existence came out, and the police obtained a warrant to search J.G.W.’s computer. Both teens were prosecuted and convicted of child pornography offences because they had taken photographs of themselves engaged in private sexual conduct. Had they been two years older, the images they created would have been completely legal. However, because they were under 18 when the photographs were taken, their actions constituted a second degree felony. A.H. appealed to the Florida District Court of Appeals, but the Court upheld her conviction.

Although there appear to have been no such prosecutions in Melbourne or Victorian Courts, there is nothing which would prevent such a prosecution from happening at present. However, it has been reported thourgh SBS news that the Victorian government will be adopting a recommendation from the sexting inquiry to protect minors from prosecution in circumstances such as those outlined in the above case study.

It was also reported that an additional recommendation of the sexting inquiry to criminalise the sharing of intimate images without consent will be implemented by the Victorian State Government.

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