Sexting laws reflect values, says lawyer

NEW sexting laws reflect community values and will help some people escape violent relationships, says a Bendigo lawyer. 

The new laws introduce charges for people who send or threaten to distribute explicit images without consent, and will be introduced into Parliament on Thursday.

Loddon Campaspe Community Centre co-principal lawyer Anna Howard said the changes would be helpful for those scared of retribution from current or former partners. 

"From our experience... the fact that a person might hold sexually explicit images of a partner might see someone in an unhealthy relationship not be able to leave from fear of retribution," she said. 

"It will surely be a positive thing if police are following up on these threats."

The laws will also ensure young people who receive or send raunchy but non-exploitative sexts are spared from child pornography offences and being placed on the sex offenders register.

Young people under 18 who create, possess or distribute a sext of themselves or another child who is less than two years younger will not be guilty of a child pornography offence.

But this will not apply to images that capture a criminal offence such as a sexual assault, and the exceptions will not apply to adults.

Under previous laws, sexts were classified as child pornography when they depicted people under 18, even when the subject of the photo took the image and willingly sent it to others.

Ms Howard said she had seen a lot of young people in the region get caught up by the former law. 

"Before these changes were introduced, it was really terrible to see people get charged by the laws," she said.

"Often the person is so young and so quickly sent a message and did something that has become fairly common."

She said while many agreed that sexting was inappropriate, the majority of the community strongly believed that it should not come with a criminal consequence. 

The changes are recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry.

Ms Howard said Bendigo would continue to educate the community on the social implications of sexting. 

"The fact that even though there may be no legal implications with sending sexually excplicit messages now, people have to remember that once it's sent, it is out of your control," she said. 

"You don't know where that image might be forwarded to someone else and when you're young it's difficult to think of your long life head of you."

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