INDEPENDENT Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye recalled her own shock at being shown intimate photos of a co-worker as she supported a bill to criminalise "revenge porn" offences and voyeurism.
The Senate on Tuesday debated the Sexual Offences (Amendment) (No 3) Bill 2021.
However, she questioned the efficacy of the penalties, the allowed exemptions, and the use of retributive, not restorative justice, especially for children.
She said the bill would go a long way to bring relief to women and children for acts done for lust and blackmail and to spoil childhoods.
Thompson-Ahye shared an upsetting incident that had happened to her 38 years ago as a young attorney, when a man she knew well stopped his car to give her a drop to work at Nipdec House.
"No sooner did I sit in his car then he passed me a fat envelope and said, 'I have something to show you.'
"Confused, I opened the envelope and found a number of intimate photos of him with one of my colleagues. I became quite upset and asked him to stop the car. I told him exactly what I thought of him and his behaviour and flung the photos back at him."
She said clearly the man did not want legal advice, nor was he sharing the photos for the purpose of legal proceedings.
"He was just a nasty malicious person who exemplified the saying, 'Hell hath no fury...' –and it shoudn't be 'a woman' – 'like a man scorned.'"
Thompson-Ahye said that man would have violated the bill if it had been in effect then.
She also recalled a friend who ended up in jail for ten years after an ex-lover had sent intimate photos of her to her ex-husband, causing her to "trip off" and badly assault him.
"It is 14 years too late for my friend," the senator said of the bill. Thompson-Ahye said had this bill been in force, the ex-lover could have been charged with causing distress, rather than the woman taking matters into her own hands.
However, she questioned the deterrence effect of the bill's penalty of two-five years' imprisonment and a $250,000-$750,000 fine (the lower penalty in a magistrates court, and the higher in the High Court.)
"It's a fallacy to think that if you increase the penalties, the person becomes less timid."
She urged that police officers should get special training on the bill and that law students study it as part of a course on legal ethics.
Thompson-Ahye sounded a warning note on one of the listed exemptions, that is, acts done for medical purposes.
"Even in the medical field, we have people whose actions are suspect. And this is not idle talk. It has happened that certain examinations are carried out that are totally unnecessary."
She questioned the bill's remedy of ordering the removal of online images taken without consent, saying, "It is very difficult to retrieve all of the images once it is out there."
"This bill really brings us into the 21st century. Long after the internet horse has bolted, we are trying to recover," she said, "But it fails to take into account that sexual offences are committed by children against other children."
Regarding child abuse, she pointed out the dangers posed by cellphones, which on average a child first receives at age ten.
"What the world is showing is that they are moving towards restorative justice, especially in terms of child justice, and we ought to be looking at that."