Monash Criminology Research Shaping New Criminal Law

New research on image-based sexual abuse (#imagebasedabuse) from Monash Criminology’s Dr Asher Flynn, with co-researchers Associate Professor Nicola Henry and Dr Anastasia Powell (RMIT), has influenced a positive change in the law in New South Wales (NSW).

Flynn, Henry and Powell’s research has been identified by the NSW Attorney General, the Honourable Mr Mark Speakman MP, as demonstrating the need for new laws to criminalise the creation, distribution and threat of distribution of intimate images without consent, and as helping shape the development of the Crimes Amendment (Intimate Images) Bill (NSW), introduced into the NSW Legislative Assembly on 24 May 2017.

Asher and Nicola were invited by the NSW Attorney General to observe the first and second reading of the bill as his guests in NSW Parliament last week. In describing the need for the new law, the Attorney General referred to the study conducted by the research team, stating “a recent report by Dr Nicola Henry, Dr Anastasia Powell and Dr Asher Flynn found that one in five survey respondents reported being victims of some kind of image-based abuse … The Government takes these concerns seriously and strongly condemns the non-consensual sharing of intimate images” (NSW Hansard, 24 May 2017). The Attorney General went onto state that the “research has confirmed that image-based abuse can occur for a diverse range of motivations … [and] the existing offences do not protect victims where the non-consensual recording of the intimate image was done with motives of revenge, or to embarrass and humiliate the victim, or to attempt to control their behaviour. The new offence in proposed section 91P will address this gap in the law” (NSW Hansard, 24 May 2017). In concluding his speech, the Attorney General stated that the bill was the product of detailed consultation with stakeholders on the appropriate form and scope for the new offence, recognising the expertise of Drs Henry, Flynn and Powell in this process.

In addition to attending the first reading of the bill, Asher and Nicola were invited to give a presentation on their Australian Criminology Research Council project findings (CRG08/15-16) at an event hosted in Parliament House to recognise the efforts of those who had contributed to the development of the bill, including themselves. The event was attended by MPs, victims of image-based abuse, victim advocates and a range of domestic violence and legal support workers. Noelle Martin and Brieana Rose (pseudonym), victims of image-based abuse, also spoke at the event describing the debilitating effects of this horrendous crime, and expressing their appreciation for this welcome change to the law. Their powerful stories reminded us of the importance of criminalising this form of abuse and what this change will mean for the many victims of image-based abuse. Both Noelle and Breanna thanked Asher and Nicola for their efforts in shedding light on image-based abuse and helping advocate for change.

At the end of the event, the NSW Attorney General also tweeted his thanks to those involved in making this change in the law happen, stating: “Thx victims, researchers, advocates incl[uding] @AsherFlynn @n_henry for your work on #imagebasedabuse. Bill now in @NSWParlLA” (Mark Speakman tweet, 24 May 2017) with a link to the NSW Hansard.

It is wonderful to see Dr Asher Flynn’s research having such significant social impact.