Nicole Fox, at the age of 21, tragically died by suicide following years of online bullying and abuse. Known affectionately as "Coco" by her loving family, Nicole suffered years of horrendous physical and online abuse that started just after she turned 18. Her mother Jackie’s world shattered the day she found Coco’s lifeless body at their Clondalkin home in January 2018.
Nicole's mum Jackie channelled her unbearable grief into changing Ireland’s laws in Coco’s name, fighting tirelessly for legislation that could better protect others from online bullying and abuse.
On Tuesday 9th February 2021, the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, known as Coco’s Law, was commenced, with a memorandum about Coco and how she inspired the new law.
In announcing the commencement of the act, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, stated that “the taking or sharing of intimate images without consent is abuse and will not be tolerated" and that the “new legislation will give An Garda Síochána the tools they need to make sure that those who commit this abusive crime can be prosecuted and, if prosecuted, our Courts will have sentences available that reflect the level of harm these crimes cause to their victims."
Aim of the legislation
Coco’s Law creates two new offences which criminalize the non-consensual distribution of intimate images:
The first offence deals with the distribution or publication of intimate images without consent and with intent to cause harm. The penalties applicable can be an unlimited fine and/or 7 years imprisonment.
The second offence deals with the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent even if there is no specific intent to cause harm. This offence will carry a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment.
Research Observatory on Cyberbullying
An agreement was reached between the Department of Justice, the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) at DCU and the Department of Education, to establish an ‘Research Observatory on Cyberbullying’ focused on providing up-to-date research, advice and resources related to cyberbullying, cyberhate, and online harassment, and the implementation of Coco’s Law.
Funding for the Observatory will be provided by the Department of Justice in memory of Nicole.