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​Victorian Government modernises law for sexting

Thanks to the introduction of a new law in Victoria, teens found 'sexting' are no longer automatically deemed criminals or sex offenders.

Image by Garry Knight, CC BY-SA 2.0

Sending racy pictures via text is not a new phenomenon, but new legislation being introduced in Victoria is set to protect teenagers from being unduly hit with charges if they're founding 'sexting'.

A new bill introduced by the Liberal State Government will amend the law that governs the distribution of 'intimate images', particularly as it relates to mobile devices and digital sharing.

Previously, people under the age of 18 engaged in fully consensual sexting ran the risk of getting a criminal record or being put on the sex offenders register -- something that could carry lifelong consequences.

However, after an inquiry by the Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform Committee, the Government has introduced the Crimes Amendment bill to Parliament in order to update the existing Summary Offences Act and bring it in-line with modern technology.

Times have certainly changed -- the original Offences Act dates back to 1966 and includes ladders in the definition of "devices" that can be used to obtain intimate images.

Speaking about the modernisation, Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark said it would protect minors in a range of cases.

"The Bill will ensure that anyone under 18 years of age who creates, possesses or distributes an intimate image or 'sext' of themselves or of another minor who is less than two years younger than them will not be guilty of a child pornography offence," he said.

"However if the image depicts a criminal offence, such as a sexual assault, the exceptions will not apply."

There are also provisions in place to protect minors from malicious sharing of images, including two new offences pertaining 'distribution of an intimate image' and 'threat to distribute an intimate image'.

"Currently, the law provides only limited protection against non-consensual distribution of intimate images and this behaviour can cause considerable harm to victims, particularly if an image 'goes viral'," said Clark.

"The two new summary offences send a clear message that the malicious use of intimate images to embarrass and denigrate a victim is unacceptable and is a criminal offence."