Duncan Smith in The Dáil. Photograph: TheJournal.ie

On Thursday, the 14th of July, transport spokesperson for the Labour Party, Duncan Smith, presented the Protection of Accident Victims from Non-Consensual Recording of Images Bill 2022. This is a new piece of legislation that forbids the recording and publication of images taken at the scene of a road traffic accident. 

Drafted in response to recent images of road traffic accident victims being circulated online, Smith describes the publications as a “disrespectful and distressing intrusion into private grief”, with many families and friends of said victims discovering the extent of the accident or indeed the occurrence of the accident itself from seeing such posts online.

“The posting and sharing of images taken by those who come upon the scene of an accident has become all too common,” Smith says. “The fact that family members and friends can be exposed to such harmful and grotesque images before they have even learned of the accident is unforgivable.”

As outlined in his Explanatory Memorandum, the main purpose of the short Bill is to prohibit the taking and broadcasting of non-consensual images or “protected images” of those who are “dead, seriously injured or in shock” as a result of the road accident or emergency. Such “protected images” are any and all visual representations of the accident, including photos, videos or any other digital medium. A breach against this proposed bill renders the guilty party liable to a Class A fine – a fine up to but not exceeding €5,000, a prison sentence not exceeding 12 months or both. An exception may be made for anyone who engaged in taking these “protected images” as long as they were taken “for the purpose of obtaining assistance, advice or care for, or providing assistance.” Anyone facing these convictions may avail of a “public interest defence” provided the “protected images” in question are of public interest, including access to information of public importance as long as the “nature and extent of disclosure… was not by reason of its detail or the extent of intrusiveness into the private life, excessive.” 

The Bill is currently in its second stage of proposal to the Dáil with its general principles being debated by Dáil party members. With the dates of the third stage yet to be announced – wherein the Bill is examined section by section with amendments being made –  we can expect to wait further before we see the Bill being passed by the Seanad. Nevertheless, with a positive reception from Dáil members, the proposed Bill may be expected to be signed  into law in the coming future. 

Rhoen Eate – Deputy Editor