Revenge porn refers to the sharing of explicit or sexual images or videos, without the consent of the person in the image, with the intention of causing embarrassment or distress to that person.
The images are defined as those which show something that would not usually be seen in public and anything that a reasonable person would consider to be sexual. Revenge porn has been identified as an issue among people of all ages, from children as young as 11 to much older adults. However, the most commonly reported incidents have come from those who are in their teens to mid-twenties.
Reported cases of revenge porn increased significantly in 2015 and 2016. With mobile phones becoming more intelligent and cameras being included in most models, sharing images had never been so easy or so quick.
When a relationship deteriorates and the break-up is not amicable, some individuals may choose to use explicit images of their ex-partner against them as a way of getting revenge. This can be extremely damaging to the victim. The violation of trust and sense of betrayal can be devastating both emotionally and psychologically and can jeopardise future relationships.
The law has responded to the increase in revenge porn and, prior to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act in 2015, the CPS prosecuted cases within a range of existing laws. For example, sending explicit or rude images could constitute an offence under the Communications Act of 2003 or the Malicious Communications Act of 1988. Behaviour of this kind, if repeated, could amount to an offence of harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
However, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act made the act of sharing explicit images a criminal offence in itself. The offence applies both online and offline, and to images which are shared electronically or in a more traditional way. Therefore, it includes the uploading of images on the internet, sharing by text and email or physically showing someone an image. The offence is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.
Whilst this is a move in the right direction, the legislation currently does not cover threats to share explicit images, which can be as damaging as the actual act of doing so. The threat can be used to manipulate and intimidate a victim and the matter is now before Parliament for consideration.
A survey carried out by the organisation Refuge found that one in four adults in England and Wales have received threats to share explicit images or videos at one time or another. The threats are most prevalent among people in the 18 to 34 age group and one in seven women have reported receiving them.
Growing awareness about this issue has led to a proposed amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill will make the ‘threat’ to share explicit images a crime and is thought to be broadly supported by Ministers. The Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, says threatening to share intimate images without consent has a ‘devastating impact, leaving victims and survivors feeling like there is no escape’. She went on to say that this gap in the law ‘allows abusers to share intimate images as a way of controlling and frightening survivors both during relationships and following separation’.
This proposed change will help to protect victims of abuse from the control and manipulation the threat of sharing images can enable.
For more information about Bastian Lloyd Morris, visit www.blmsolicitors.co.uk or call 01908 546580.