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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 14 Jul 2022

Vol. 1025 No. 5

Protection of Accident Victims from Non-Consensual Recording of Images Bill 2022: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to prohibit the recording or publication without consent of certain images of persons who are dead, seriously injured or in shock as a result of an accident or other emergency, and to provide for connected matters.

I welcome the opportunity to seek leave to introduce this Bill on First Stage today. In our country, we deal with anywhere between 150 and 200 road traffic deaths each year. In addition, there are upwards of 8,000 injuries related to road traffic accidents every year. These can range from very minor injuries to the most serious and profoundly life-changing injuries. There is hardly a person or community that has not been touched by the tragedy and impact of a road traffic death or serious injury. It is something that we, as a nation, are very conscious of. We have striven over many years and through many campaigns to make our roads safer, mitigate the many dangers caused by irresponsible road use and decrease the number of genuine accidents that happen.

Unfortunately, a phenomenon has recently emerged that is both distressing and grotesque. In these cases, there is a serious accident and victims are dead, dying, seriously injured or in a state of nervous shock.

That is then filmed by passers-by and shared on social media. We have all heard that the Garda, very quickly after an accident, is having to appeal to the public saying there is an accident on such-and-such a road and please do not share images of it. I do not even have to go into the reasons but the central reason is that a family member or a loved one of the person who has been injured or killed may see it. Images should not be shared out of respect for the victim of the accident. Even after the immediacy of it, those images will stay out there in cyberspace forever. It is an act of absolute indecency and we need to take clamp down on it. We need to find our own decency as a society again and look at what we can do as a Legislature to say this is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that this is done at these tragic events, which happen in the eye of the public. As someone who witnessed a fatality on a road in Dublin city centre almost 20 years ago, I find it beyond belief that anyone would reach for a camera or a phone to take a recording in the immediate aftermath of witnessing something so serious.

This Bill would prohibit the recording or publication without consent of certain images of persons who are dead, seriously injured or in shock as a result of an accident or other emergency. There are five sections. Section 1 defines a protected image as meaning a visual representation, including any photographic, film, video or digital representation of a person at the scene of an accident or other emergency who as a result of that emergency is dying, dead, seriously injured or in a state of nervous shock. Section 2 provides that a person is guilty of an offence where he or she records or publishes such a protected image of another person without that other person's consent and that conduct seriously interferes with the peace and privacy of that other person or causes distress, alarm or harm, including psychological harm, to the other person or members of his or her family. The Bill also seeks to protect our emergency services, which at certain times need to take recordings of scenes for whatever reason. We have always trusted, and do trust, that our emergency services are the best of us in terms of responding to these emergencies.

With regard to the media, the legislation is compliant with the Broadcasting Act. We are very clear in the Bill, which is relatively short, that these provisions are specifically for members of the public who take recordings or photographs without consent and share them through social media, where they can spread far and wide and cause untold and unimaginable distress for victims, friends, families and communities after accidents. I expect the Bill will not be opposed. I hope we can find some way, even through an amendment to existing legislation, to bring this proposal into law.

Deputy Smith is to be congratulated on his initiative. I presume this important legislation is not being opposed.

Question put and agreed to.

As this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.