Warning over pornography '˜tidal wave' on way to Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland should be braced for a 'tidal wave' of pornography, a sex abuse charity has warned.

Posting revenge porn is to become a criminal offence carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison in Northern Ireland.

England and Wales already have laws outlawing the publication of explicit sexual images and videos of former partners.

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Pam Hunter, Nexus chief executive, said: “There is a tidal wave about to happen. The amount of sexting and access to porn and the prevalence of sex in our society and use of social media; that tidal wave online will hit us so anything that can be put in place will help us in the long-run.”

Democratic Unionist Alastair Ross proposed the measure, which has been passed by Stormont Assembly members.

The law creates a new offence of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.

Mr Ross added that the “obnoxious” behaviour caused distress, devastation and humiliation to victims.

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He said intimate photographs or films are initially shared with another individual, often someone who is trusted at the time. Offenders spread them widely, usually on the internet, without their consent and with the intent of causing distress.

Ms Hunter said systems were in place to help victims of revenge porn.

She said: “It is the same as being groomed for sexual abuse, it happens very quickly as it is online. It is never the victim’s fault but there are things we can do to help prevent it.”

Revenge porn can affect adults and young people.

Recently it was revealed that investigations into dozens of youngsters considered for prosecution in Northern Ireland over indecent images of children have been halted.

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Child protection expert Jim Gamble has proposed that the law be amended so that a child who takes or distributes a picture of him or herself will not commit a criminal offence.

He has recommended that provision should be made in law that a child who has an image of another child with malicious intent would commit a criminal offence.

Police already deal with the matter “sensitively” and only one child was prosecuted out of 79 investigated by the authorities over the alleged sharing of intimate images during a two-year period, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed.