Revenge Porn and the Law

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Revenge Porn and the Law

Revenge Porn and the Law

The growth of the internet has given rise to problems for prosecutors faced with crimes for which existing legislation is unfit to deal. One such scenario is that of “revenge pornography”, or the posting of indecent images or videos online without the victim’s consent. The name comes from the fact that in many cases the photos or video have been posted by a rejected lover seeking to humiliate the victim.

A recent Press Association study showed that victims of revenge porn have been as young as 11 years old. Such victims are clearly covered by existing child protection laws, but for adult victims the picture is less clear and the police response makes depressing reading. Of the eight police forces that keep records, 149 cases had been reported but only six cautions issued.

In response to this growing problem, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued new guidelines for how revenge porn should be handled. It has previously fallen into a grey area of prosecution – it isn’t quite harassment under existing law, nor is it necessarily material classed as indecent. However, the new CPS guidance could mean the potential for imprisonment for those posting revenge porn. The advice given is to look at ways to prosecute the posting of revenge porn as a form of online abuse, and paying particular attention to other circumstances in each situation. These include whether the online activity is linked to sexual assault or blackmail, or if the material violates child protection legislation.

For victims of revenge porn, the new guidance offers hope that their complaints will be handled more effectively. By offering prosecutors more information about how the crime can be considered under the law, they are better equipped to go beyond the giving of cautions, and in severe cases to press for imprisonment as a punishment.

It also opens the question of the responsibility of internet service providers (ISP’s) to shut down websites where revenge porn is posted, as well as penalising those uploading the material. If revenge porn is classed as a criminal offence, it could follow that ISP’s could be held responsible for the actions of their users. This is similar to the way that ISP’s have been made to help combat media piracy.

While the CPS advice is not an actual change to the law, there have been a number of calls for just that. Former Culture Secretary Maria Miller has spoken out on the need for UK law to deal with the issue of revenge porn head on. In response, the government has agreed to act and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling has announced that new legislation is to be introduced into the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that will mean that revenge porn would become a criminal offence punishable up to two years in prison. The new laws are currently going through parliament.

In the meantime, victims of revenge porn are encouraged to report the crime to their local police force. For many victims, the offline repercussions of revenge porn can be severe, and seeking legal assistance through the police can be the first step to solving the problems.

However, if the police are either unwilling or unable to act, victims of online abuse can still seek redress through the courts. Speak to a solicitor, who will advise on ways of obtaining an injunction to prevent further harassment and possibly also to claim compensation from the abusive party.

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