Changes Coming For Sexting Laws
Current laws covering sexting – the transmission of naked or sexually revealing images of themselves via mobile phone or the internet – have already led to teenagers being charged with child pornography offences and placed on the sex offender register.
The law was designed to prevent pedophiles from exploiting and associating with children, not to punish minors who regard sending raunchy photos of themselves to friends as a bit of naughty excitement.
Part 10.6 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 makes it an offence to transmit or possess sexual photos of an under age person, or a person who appears to be under age.
Even though the age of consent is 16, this law covers anyone who is under 18.
Penalties for child pornography can be up to 15 years in jail and being placed on the sex offender register.
The current law is so broad that a 17 year old girl who sends a picture to a friend of herself in underwear doing a sexy dance could be prosecuted for the crime of child pornography.
Police and courts have imposed criminal records on many young people and put them on the sexual offenders record for years and even life.
But moves are afoot to change the law so that there is more flexibility regarding teenagers and sexting. The Victorian government says it will adopt the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry that minors who make or possess sexually explicit images or video of themselves or their peers cannot be charged with child pornography offences.
The inquiry said sexting was now fairly commonplace, especially among teenagers, and in most cases involved willing participants and little or no harm was done. The inquiry said this should not be classified as child pornography, but come under a new law of sexting where young age can be a defence.
But the inquiry also said it should be a crime to distribute intimate images or video of a person without their consent.
If the Victorian government brings in a new law for sexting it will be the first in Australia, other States might follow.
“It’s important young people know the current law regarding sexting and understand the potentially serious legal consequences of what they might see as simply a bit of fun,” said Joshua Dale, a lawyer with Stacks Law Firm.
If you receive nude or sexy images on your mobile from a person who is, or is implied to be, under 18 you’d be well advised to delete them immediately. Tell the sender not to send them again. Never forward them to others as that is a serious crime. Also, never ask someone to send naked pictures – that can be illegal harassment.