Criminal Law

Calling police first step in revenge porn cases: Zita

By Peter Small, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

If intimate images of you are posted online without consent, you are possibly the victim of revenge porn and should contact police, Toronto criminal lawyer Jessica Zita tells AdvocateDaily.com.

It is imperative to always be cognizant of the danger to your reputation if even one such image is published without your approval, says Zita, associate with Hicks Adams LLP.

“If you did not consent to it, call the police. Don’t let that sort of thing snowball,” she says.

Such pictures may be posted by a former intimate partner, like an ex-boyfriend, Zita says. Although originally taken and shared between the two of you with consent, that agreement doesn't include having those images distributed to third parties, she adds.

A study by McAfee.com indicates one in 10 people have been threatened by an ex with having their risqué images posted on the internet. Nearly 60 per cent of these threats were carried out.

Publishing an intimate image without consent is illegal under s. 162.1 of the Criminal Code. The section reads, in part: “Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty (a) of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or (b) of an offence punishable on summary conviction."

The Code defines an intimate image as a visual recording “in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity.”

The law further states that at the time the image was produced, the person recorded must have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

If you suspect you have been the victim of revenge porn, you should gather all evidence in your possession that supports the fact that you never agreed to have your intimate images published or posted on the web, then take it to the police, Zita says.

Based on her review of the case law, she believes that unless the complainant actually said, “Here is my picture, go distribute it publicly,” an allegation of revenge porn is difficult to refute.

Zita advises those who find themselves in this situation to first determine if there is any evidence to suggest they gave consent.

“They would probably say, ‘No, this is horrifying. What a nightmare.’ And then I would urge them to call the police with their story because only the police can lay a criminal charge,” she says.

Zita also suggests that victims contact a civil lawyer to see if there are any non-criminal remedies, such as trying to persuade the websites hosting the photos to remove them. “Those images could be incredibly damaging.”

If the perpetrator is convicted, the judge could order the individual to take down the intimate images. But, if the photos or videos were sold to a third party, such as a pornography site, getting them removed may prove more difficult, Zita says.

Victims can be assured that if the matter goes to trial, their identity will be protected by a publication ban, except in rare circumstances, she adds.

“I'd call the police, give them whatever they need for their investigation, and let them go from there,” Zita says.

To Read More Jessica Zita Posts Click Here