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Home Features Revenge porn conviction in Jamaica, while our legislation languishes

Revenge porn conviction in Jamaica, while our legislation languishes

Some heartening news out of Jamaica last week was that that country had successfully prosecuted a case of revenge porn and the twisted person who perpetrated the crime is now awaiting his sentence from the court. It could be severe. A story in the Jamaica Gleaner (published August 30, 2018 in that newspaper’s online version), stated that a 25-year-old man had been found guilty of the crime, and had felt the hammer of the law.

The Grenadian parliament in 2013 passed “five electronic laws aimed at providing guidance to the police and the judiciary to deal with criminal matters committed using electronic and technological devices”, with a person convicted of such crime facing a fine of up to $200,000 (Grenada uses the Eastern Caribbean dollar, which is the equivalent of 0.75 of a Belize dollar). The perpetrator of the crime could also get up to three years in prison, or both a fine and imprisonment. An accused cannot use ignorance of the law as an excuse.

I could not find any follow-up information on this case, so I don’t know the penalty handed down by the judge, or if the man appealed.

Jennifer Mayerle, in a May 26, 2015 online story (minnesota.cbslocal.com) reported on a revenge porn conviction that had been overturned in Minnesota. In this story a man posted sexually explicit ads online using the picture and name of his ex-girlfriend and her daughter, and they ended up receiving disgusting pictures and offers from a number of men.

The conviction was overturned, the man’s lawyer noting that while what his client did was reprehensible, he could not “be punished under an unconstitutional statute.” In this case, the law on their books was not sufficient for a conviction. Mayerle reported that a bill that was introduced subsequently, to fix the law, was not found satisfactory by lawmakers in Minnesota.

In another Jamaica Gleaner story (online), of February 1, 2018, a man from the parish of St. Andrew in Jamaica was fined $500,000 ($1US is worth 129.5 Jamaican dollars) or, if the fine wasn’t paid, would serve 12 months in jail for sending explicit pictures to the boyfriend of a woman who had dumped him. Again, I couldn’t find any follow-up story on this case.

Regarding the latest successful prosecution of this type of case, Alicia Williams, in an online story (nationwideradiojm.com), on July 23, 2019, reported that a 53-year-old man in Jamaica had been dealt with by the law for the shameful act of posting lewd pictures of a woman he knew, and sending her malicious material. The man is yet to be sentenced.

The victory for the Jamaican justice system is not theirs alone, however. Williams said that Jamaican authorities “collaborated with United States Homeland Security” to get the conviction. The victim in this case is an American woman.

The information out there is that it is not easy to get a conviction in these cases, and that could explain why there are men out there (it is mostly men who commit this crime) who are getting away with murder of the character of a woman who was once their friend.
There is also information gotten through illicit means, through cameras hidden inside bedrooms, bathrooms, hotel rooms, and these might be even more difficult to prosecute because the victim might not know who violated her. Most cases out there, however, involve criminal betrayal.

Marc Ellison, a BBC journalist in Scotland, reported online at www.bbc.com, that more than half of these types of cases don’t make it to the prosecutors. In his March 6, 2018 story, Ellison said “between July and December last year, 225 complaints were reported to Police Scotland with just 89, or 39%, being referred to prosecutors.”

Ellison said that, “some of these charges have resulted in an unknown number of fines, prison sentences, community payback orders and harassment orders”, and “at least two people received a warning, and no action was taken in at least another two cases.”
He reported that a training and development worker with Glasgow’s Women’s Aid, Susan Jack, said she was “disappointed to see such low levels of detections and convictions, particularly when this is compared with the number of reported incidents of revenge porn,” and added that “this is a crime where you would naturally assume evidence would be relatively easy to gather.”

Ellison reported that the Justice Secretary of Scotland, Michael Matheson, said that the “impact of sharing intimate images can be hugely damaging and there is no place for it in our society”, and that is why “the Scottish government brought forward legislation so those convicted of disclosing, or threatening to disclose, an intimate photograph or film may receive a custodial sentence of up to five years imprisonment.”

In Belize, the response of our government is in a category less than lukewarm. I am not aware of our government’s even attempting to prosecute anyone who has been accused of this vile crime. What we have here, I believe, is an Attorney General who is thinking too much.

In a 7News story, “Cyber-Bullying Spree On Facebook — GOB Trying to Come Up With Laws” of February 24, 2017, we learned of a Facebook group that had posted a story, with a picture, of a minor who they said was in an adult relationship, and the child’s mother had lodged a complaint with the police. The media asked the Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, and then Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, if there were laws in Belize to deal with cyberbullying.

Hawke told the media that they had set up a committee to look at legislation, and that we could expect something within two or three months. The Attorney General said, “…passing laws is not like buying a pound of rice…It doesn’t work that quickly…there’s this cheater…and there was a minor…who do we hold responsible for that? The parents, the person who took it? What if the minor herself, took the video and posted it? Who do we hold responsible?

“…we are in Belize. If you are to prosecute everyone who had a bad thing to say about somebody else on Facebook, everyone would have been to jail or gotten sued because that’s all social media is used for, bashing people, and outing people. We have to make sure that when crimes are being committed or things that are of such an indecent nature that it upsets us that we find the laws to address it. But it’s not as easy as people think it is.”

It is not impossible that our government and the AG do not agree with formulating laws to deal with cyberbullying. In a News5 story of May 17, 2019, the AG said, in response to a public outcry against men who had released sexually explicit pictures of females in our community, that we have to consider “responsibility.”

The AG said: “People complain about videos being out there, adults…Should we put in….legislation that maybe it is an offence to make a video like that? Maybe it is an offence for you to allow someone to make a video like that. We have to start taking responsibility. If you don’t want a video like that with you out there, don’t make one. So should there be a penalty for someone who makes one?

“…we want to make sure that when we present a bill to the House that it is one that is tight, well- written and that we can depend on with people who commit infractions.”

So, two and half years after the Belizean public expressed its disgust with impunity for perpetrators of this crime, there is nothing on the books.  Let us be very clear to the government of Belize: we have a right to privacy in this country and our government’s duty is to protect our rights.

The AG has said that women who don’t want to be subjects of such revenge shouldn’t allow themselves to be videoed that way. That advice is next to worthless. If men are the judges of the world, the female body is God’s most fascinating creation, by far. Men will encourage women to have pictures of their body taken, and some will agree to do it.

A nude picture doesn’t have to be sexually explicit to cause harm. What happens if a young woman posed nude for her boyfriend for some fun shots, and later on she decides to become a nun? Really, that old boyfriend can’t have rights to expose those pictures. The right to take a picture has to be different from the right to expose a picture. Fifty percent participation in a picture gives limited rights.

We are overthinking here. There are cases of this nature that are difficult to prosecute, and there are easy cases to prosecute. If there are two persons in a picture, and one screams foul, you don’t need any more evidence. Get the job done, AG. Put out what you have now and keep building on it. You might not get 100% convictions, but the law might scare off some men from committing this dastardly crime.

On top of that, taking a case to court will out the pariah male who perpetrates this crime. We want to know him so we can tell him he is not worthy of the company of men. Out those bohgaz, AG.

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