Issue Date: 27th February 2023
As part of a social media campaign launched today to highlight sextortion as a crime, An Garda Síochána is issuing public guidance on how it can happen and how to respond if you are, or become a victim.
Sextortion is a form of cyber extortion which involves a threat or blackmail of having intimate information, images or clips shared without consent. The threat or blackmail may be to get the victim to do or refrain from doing something, or the threat or blackmail may be purely for money or financial gain.
Sextortion can occur in a number of ways:
• During a relationship or where a relationship has broken down – either partner can be the victim
• During online activity, sharing intimate images with another online partner, either strangers or people known to you
• Sharing of images on messaging apps
• Juveniles involved in the sharing of intimate images, in addition to being open to potential sextortion and online bullying, the sharing of any intimate image of a juvenile is Child Sexual Abuse Material.
An Garda Síochána has today posted on its social media a series of text conversations. The text messages included in the awareness campaign are real and formed part of the evidence in a case that was brought before the courts in 2021. The perpetrator was convicted of committing sextortion of a woman aged in her 30’s. This case will be highlighted as part of tonight’s Crimecall programme on RTE One at 9:35pm.
The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 or more commonly known as ‘Coco’s Law’ was enacted on in February 2021. To date An Garda Síochána has commenced 72 prosecutions related to 49 investigations. Some case examples that have been finalised before the courts include:
In April 2021 a female reported intimate image of her captured on hidden camera in the shower and circulated without consent. Male prosecuted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
In May 2021 a female reported an intimate video had been shared without consent. Male prosecuted and sentenced to 6months (under appeal)
An Garda Síochána highlighted in the published Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence report (an-garda-siochana-domestic-sexual-and-gender-based-violence-report-sept-22.pdf) that of 471 incidents of ‘Blackmail/Extortion’ including intimate material, 82% of these involved male victims with almost 30% of victims being in the 18-24 age group.
According to Hotline.ie, the Irish national centre responsible for combatting illegal content online, they received 688 reports in relation to Intimate Image Abuse (IIA) in 2022. There has been a 93% successful removal rate by Hotline.ie, and the removal of intimate images takes an average 0-3 days.
Detective Superintendent Ian Lackey of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said, "We recognise that there are victims of sextortion that may not necessarily realise that what they are experiencing is very serious, criminal and can be subject to prosecution.
"We want people to know that it does not matter what age, gender, background, qualification, profession or personal circumstances you are in – this can happen anyone. There is no shame or embarrassment to be associated with sextortion.
"We have no doubt whatsoever that there are victims experiencing this in silence, who must feel stressed or alone not knowing where to turn, but we are here to help and support.
"An Garda Síochána is fully committed to supporting victims of these crimes to feel fully safe and protected. You can come forward to us confidentially if you have been affected by sextortion or are experiencing it at present. Please contact us whether in person at any Garda Station or by phone.
He added, "Raising awareness of the possible warning signs of sextortion can help in ensuring fewer people are affected, but our campaign is also aimed at shifting public attitudes. Society can support us in our work to increase awareness around these types of crimes.”
The warning signs:
Something does not add up — their online profile is not consistent with what you see and hear when you talk or chat with them.
They’re moving too fast — they express strong emotions for you almost straight away, and quickly tempt you across to a more private channel, suggesting you get nude or sexual in a video call.
They make excuses — they say their webcam is not working and instead send a nude photo which they claim is of them.
They say they need help — they say they need money for some sort of personal emergency like medical treatment or to cover the rent
An Garda Síochána advice:
• Don’t panic, help and support is available
• Don’t pay
• Save the evidence: Take screenshots. Save messages and images. Collect URL links to where the information is being shared online
• Report it to any Garda Station as well as via the online reporting facility available on Hotline.ie so they can process a content removal request
• Block all communication with the person targeting you
• If you are in an intimate relationship and it is happening to you, seek help and report to your local Garda Station
• Advice for parents of children and juveniles sharing images: https://www.garda.ie/en/crime/online-child-exploitation/