Law enforcement / Revenge porn

Updated guidance on prosecuting social media ‘revenge porn’

revenge porn

The UK Crown Prosecution Service has issued a press release notifying an update to its legal guidance on the prosecution of social media communications, including on how current legislation can be used to prosecute instances of so-called ‘revenge pornography’ (the online publication of sexually explicit media without the consent of a pictured individual, usually by their ex-partner).

The updated guidance stresses that the issue is not whether the image itself is indecent or obscene, but whether the message or communication is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.

The guidance advises consideration of prosecutions using the following existing categories of offences:

  • Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (prohibiting indecent, grossly offensive, threatening or false electronic communications intended to cause distress or anxiety);
  • Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (prohibiting grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages sent through a public electronic communications network);
  • A charge of harassment where the incident forms part of a course of conduct;
  • The Protection of Children Act 1978 where the images could have been taken when the victim was under 18; and/or
  • The Sexual Offences Act 2003 where intimate images are used to coerce victims into further sexual activity.

The House of Lords also recently proposed that a new offence be added to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill Act. The offence would be that of “disclosing private sexual photographs or films with intent to cause distress”, punishable with a potential prison sentence, where the defendant would be given the option to elect between trial by jury on indictment in the Crown Court and summary trial in a magistrates’ court.

Alison Knight

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