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Australia Kimberley police detective found not guilty of breaching Western Australia's 'revenge porn' laws

07:30  19 february  2020
07:30  19 february  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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under Western Australia ’ s new revenge porn laws for allegedly creating fake Instagram pages seven intimate images of her without her consent,” WA police said in a statement on Monday. The new laws make it illegal for someone to share or threaten to share an intimate image of a person

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The case of a WA police detective acquitted after showing a photo of a partially-naked woman to three colleagues has raised questions about the interpretation of Western Australia's so-called revenge porn laws.

a couple of people standing next to a man in a suit and tie: WA Police Detective Christine Frey (right) with supporters outside the Broome courthouse. (ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins)© Provided by ABC NEWS WA Police Detective Christine Frey (right) with supporters outside the Broome courthouse. (ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins) Detective Senior Constable Christine Frey has been on trial in the Broome Magistrates Court over the past two days, having pleaded not guilty to one charge of distributing an intimate image.

She was the second person to be prosecuted under strict new laws in WA, dubbed "revenge porn" laws, introduced in 2018.

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According to revenge porn laws , a person “intentionally distributes” an image if The statute in question says a person is not guilty of revenge porn in the following circumstances Perhaps, for example, the accused posted something as a prank and thought the other person would find it funny.

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She admitted briefly showing a photo of a partially naked woman on her phone to two colleagues during a dinner in Derby on May 7, 2019.

But the detective argued she shared the image in the context of her work as a police officer, making it exempt from revenge porn laws.

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Western Australia . National. World. First person charged under new revenge porn laws cries in court. Mitchell Joseph Brindley was handed a 12-month intensive supervision order in Fremantle Magistrate’ s Court today after he pleaded guilty to distributing an intimate image of another Police said some of the pictures were “full nudes” with scribbles over the breast and vagina areas, while

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Delivering the verdict this morning, Magistrate Elizabeth Langdon told the court the case was significantly different from those the Government intended the laws to cover.

"The circumstances of this case are very different envisaged by the Attorney-General, in my respectful opinion," she said.

Ms Langdon characterised it as a "fleeting, flashing" display of the image, without malicious intent.

She said the distribution had been minimal, and there was no doubt it occurred in the context of Senior Constable Frey's work.

"It was both relevant and inextricably linked to the [Senior Constable Frey's] work as a police officer," Ms Langdon told the court.

There was a heavy police presence throughout the two-day trial, with Police Union officials from Perth attending in support of Senior Constable Frey, and other police officers from the Perth-based Internal Affairs unit flying up to support the woman featured in the image in question.

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Intimate photo sighted by child

The case related to a work visit by a specialised child protection unit to Derby in May last year.

Senior Constable Frey was a police detective in the unit, which is made up of police officers and child protection workers.

The court heard that on the day in question, Senior Constable Frey was at the local police station helping interview a child as part of an abuse investigation.

"The child was bored because we were waiting for the interview notes to be written up," she told the court.

She showed the child a word game on her phone to try keep the child occupied, but a few minutes later realised the child had opened up her private photos.

"I was distracted holding notes and the child put the photo in front of me, showing an intimate image," Senior Constable Frey said.

Senior Constable Frey still faces the possibility of internal disciplinary action by WA Police.© ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke Senior Constable Frey still faces the possibility of internal disciplinary action by WA Police. The image was a topless woman asleep on the bed, whose identity and circumstances cannot be published for legal reasons.

Photo shown to work colleagues

The criminal charge stemmed from a conversation held several hours later, when Senior Constable Frey and her colleagues met for drinks and dinner.

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All three testified that soon after meeting up, Senior Constable Frey raised concerns about the incident earlier in the day, when the child saw the intimate image.

Child protection worker Steffi Berinda said she thought the incident sounded concerning from a child welfare point of view, and asked Senior Constable Frey specifically what the child saw.

"She just showed me the photo on the phone and said, 'this is what they saw'," she said.

"The image was on the phone… it would have been for a few seconds."

Defence lawyer Linda Black asked Ms Berinda if the group laughed or made fun of the photo.

"Certainly not," Ms Berinda replied.

Ms Berinda said she advised her colleague to report the incident, which Senior Constable Frey did the next day.

That report prompted an internal investigation, which ultimately resulted in the Police Internal Investigations unit charging Senior Constable Frey.

'Revenge porn' v professional advice?

The prosecution and defence arguments pivoted on whether or not the sharing of the photo occurred as part of Senior Constable Frey's work duties.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Thomas Pontre told the court the restaurant gathering was clearly of a social, not professional nature.

He said the exemption did not apply, because Senior Constable Frey shared the photo after she had knocked off work for the day and was chatting while consuming alcoholic drinks.

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"The matter was in effect a personal matter for Ms Frey," he said, describing it as "utterly unnecessary" for her to show the photograph to her colleagues rather than just describe it.

"It was shown to stranger… it was gratuitous ... in that it was not needed. It was a gross invasion of privacy that was not needed."

In her closing argument, defence lawyer Linda Black urged Magistrate Elizabeth Langdon to exercise "common sense" in her interpretation of the new laws.

She said the intention of the laws was clearly to prohibit the deliberate and malicious distribution of intimate images, which was not what Senior Constable Frey did when she briefly held her phone up to display the photo.

"Having heard the evidence, we've seen that the conduct does not fit the crime," she said.

"She was not engaging in abuse, she was not threatening of objectifying… she was just trying to get sensible advice."

WA Police Union president Harry Arnott says the case against detective Christine Frey should never have gone to court.© ABC Kimberley: Ben Collins WA Police Union president Harry Arnott says the case against detective Christine Frey should never have gone to court. Speaking outside court, WA Police Union president Harry Arnott slammed the decision to bring the case to court.

He said Senior Constable Frey had not tried to hide the image and self-reported the issue.

"To be brutally honest, it was a beat-up right from the start," he said.

"The intent of the legislation was very, very clear ... this is to stop 'revenge porn'.

"This is not what happened in this instance."

Senior Constable Frey has been stood aside from operational duties since she was charged and still faces the possibility of internal disciplinary action by WA Police.

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