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Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Section 6: Private sexual images: threatening to disclose

Section 6 amends provision in section 51 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress) to extend the scope of the existing disclosure offence to provide for a new offence of threatening to disclose a private sexual photograph and film with intent to cause distress.

Under section 6(2) a new section 51(1) is substituted for existing section 51(1) of the 2016 Act to make it an offence where a person threatens to disclose a private sexual photograph or film in which ‘the relevant individual’ appears, without consent and with the intent to cause distress to that individual..

Subsection 51(2) is amended to provide that it will not be an offence to threaten to disclose the image to the individual involved.

Subsections 51(4) and (5) are amended to apply the defences available for the disclosure offence to the offence of threats to disclose. These include that the threat to disclose in the course of publication of journalistic material was in the public interest, or that there was a previous disclosure for reward.

A new subsection 51(7A) is inserted after subsection (7) which provides that where a person is charged with an offence of threats to disclose, it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that the photograph or film referred to in the threat exists, or if it does exist, that it is in fact a private sexual photograph or film.

A new subsection 51(8) is substituted for the existing subsection (8) to provide that a person charged with threats to disclose is not to be taken to have intended to cause distress merely because this was a natural and probable consequence of having made the threat. (This provision already applies to the disclosure offence.)

Section 6(3) involves a consequential amendment to section 53 to take account of substituted new section 51(1).

Section 6(4) amends Schedule 4 to the 2016 Act to bring within scope of the new offence the protections already afforded to online service providers from prosecution for the disclosure offence where they are merely storing, hosting or caching information, and are unaware of illegal content.

The Schedule is also amended to remove reference to the E-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC which has ceased to have effect in the UK.

Similar consequential amendment has been made to remove references to the E-Commerce Directive in section 11 and Schedule 3 (Special rules for providers of information society services) to the Act which relate to the offences of breach of anonymity of the victim or complainant in a sexual offence and breach of anonymity of the suspect in a sexual offence case.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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