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Australian state announces 'sexting' laws

The new laws make it illegal for sexually explicit material to be shared with third parties without the consent of the original sender

Victoria in Australia is set to become the first state to introduce new legislation on “sexting”, meaning it is now illegal to distribute to a third party a sexually explicit image of somebody without their consent.

Robert Clark MP, Attorney-General for the Victorian Coalition Government announced the changes following an inquiry earlier this year into sexting.

The Government accepted 11 of the 14 of the legislative measures suggested as a result of the inquiry in full or in principle.

In a press release, Mr Clark wrote that under the new laws it would be an offence to intentionally distribute, or threaten to distribute, an intimate image of another person without their consent.

Sexting between minors, as long as there is no more than two years’ difference in their ages, will stay legal, as will sexting between consenting adults.

Mr Clark said that the new legislation would make it clear that minors who create sexually explicit images would not be considered child pornographers under the law, nor would they face any risk of being placed on the Sex Offenders Register – something which, under exceptional circumstances, a legal “loophole” did previously permit.

Speaking to the Guardian Australia, Coalition MP Clem Newton Brown said: “As the law stands, children can be charged with creating child pornography if they sext, which I don’t think anyone anticipated when the child pornography laws were drafted.

“The real harm is done when images are sent to third parties.”

The report also highlighted the importance of education for children on the correct behaviour with regards to sexting, and also the potential dangers that such a practice holds.

As part of this, a group of students from Canterbury Girls Secondary School in Victoria have been working together with developers to develop an educational iPhone app on sexting, set for release in March 2014.