Ipswich MP seeks law to protect epileptic people
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is asking Parliament to create new laws which he hopes will help keep epileptic people safe from online attacks.
Mr Hunt presented the Flashing Images Bill to Parliament on Monday, which would make it a criminal offence to target epileptic individuals by sending them flashing imagery.
People with photosensitive forms of epilepsy can be triggered to the point of having seizures by flashing lights, or contrasting light and dark patterns.
Mr Hunt said: “I am pleased to be presenting this meaningful Bill to Parliament. It is absolutely right that we take action to protect those with epilepsy against malicious and harmful attacks.”
He decided to act after hearing the story of a young boy from Yorkshire. Zach Eagling, then aged nine, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and was fundraising for the Epilepsy Society.
Zach raised more than £20,000 but was targeted with flashing images sent by online bullies, causing him seizures and severe distress.
Mr Hunt said: “I am deeply saddened by the abuse and bullying suffered by Zach and other epileptic people at the hands of anonymous online trolls wielding flashing images for malicious intent.
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“This Bill to criminalise sending flashing images would prevent the bullying of vulnerable individuals.
“It would ensure that those with malicious intent, those truly horrible people hiding behind the internet to cause harm to people with epilepsy, are brought to justice.”
Daniel Jennings, senior policy & campaigns officer, at Epilepsy Action, said: “We welcome the Bill’s move to target and hold to account these individuals who maliciously and intentionally put people with photosensitive epilepsy at risk.
“What may seem a joke to some could actually have serious and distressing consequences for someone with epilepsy, as we have sadly seen in Zach’s case.
"Many people living with epilepsy can strive for many years to gain seizure control and it is devastating and dangerous to have a breakthrough seizure. Seizures can cause injury and impact on things like driving, employment and education. In the worst cases, they can be fatal.
"We hope the Bill gives a clear warning to people thinking of posting malicious images to think again – before it is too late.”