A WEST Cork student was in the news this week after she called for better training for gardaí dealing with online identify theft. What was more sinister about this identity case was that the woman’s name was being used to attempt to sell obscene photographs. The photos were not of the woman in question, but purported to be coming from her account, and she found the whole episode incredibly upsetting, as anyone would. But what compelled her to speak out, was the experience she encountered when she attempted to make an official complaint about the images.
She visited a garda station and pointed out that her name had been attached to nude and disturbing imagery.
Instead of listening with an empathetic ear and offering advice on her legal recourse, she was asked by the gardaí why she was posting photos of herself online, and it was suggested to her that maybe she shouldn’t be online at all.
That response, while very worrying, also missed the entire point. There was no issue with her own images, but her identity had been used for nefarious activity. What’s more, there is already a law on the statute books, referred to as ‘Coco’s law’, which may have helped her find a way to have the offender prosecuted.
She left the garda station feeling worse, she said, and also like she had to take some blame.
It was the cyber equivalent of asking a rape victim why they were wearing certain clothes, or walking on a dimly lit road.
The garda response was that there are now a number of protected services units which are trained to deal with such crimes. But that should not mean that garda management can wash its hands of training all other gardaí in crimes that will becoming increasingly more common as more criminals target the online world for victims.
We need to smarten up and train all our gardaí to lend sympathetic and effective ears to anyone who feels violated online. The world of crime has changed. And so must our response to it.