Radio Sandwell News

Revenge porn is being made a specific criminal offence

2015-02-12 14:49:37


Hazel's ex boyfriend posted a private video of the couple
online

So-called revenge porn will become a specific criminal offence on Thursday in England and Wales.

People caught sharing intimate photos or videos of a former partner without their permission could face up to two years in jail.

It covers images shared on and offline without that person's permission with the intent to cause harm.

Some legal groups are worried the law could lead to the criminalisation of thousands of young people.

"I think it will show the people who are thinking about doing it that if they do it and they get caught, they're going to get done. That wasn't there before so they were just going to do it anyway," says Hazel Higgleton.

The 25-year-old body piercer from Chelmsford has first-hand experience of the issue. Last year her ex-boyfriend posted a sex tape of them on various pornographic sites.

Being filmed during sex was something she resisted at first.

"When I did do it, though, I was a bit apprehensive about it and I did feel a bit pressured but I still did it," says Hazel.

"I didn't believe he'd do what he did because we were in love and he said that he loved me and I said that I loved him."

Revenge Porn
Hazel Higgleton's ex boyfriend posted a sex tape of them online

Not everyone is convinced this change in the law is the way forward. Neil Smith, a lawyer and head of dispute resolution at Lexis Nexis, is worried about the "sheer numbers" of people who share images.

He says: "On the practical side of things there is the number of complaints made to the police and whether they are properly resourced to deal with that."

Images shared on apps like Instagram and Snapchat are also covered by the new law, as well as those that are shared by texts.

The change in the law is being made via an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which includes a number of measures to toughen up sentencing on a number of crimes.

People can already be prosecuted for some similar revenge porn offences under the Malicious Communications Act, while there are also specific laws for images shared of under-18s.

line

Revenge porn: The numbers

line

  • 149 allegations of crimes involving revenge porn were recorded by eight police forces in England and Wales in two-and-a-half years
  • 43 forces asked for details
  • The majority had no data
  • Only six allegations led to a police caution or charge
  • Perpetrators can be charged with harassment. However, this is not always possible as there has to be more than one incident
  • Perpetrators can also be charged under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, Communications Act 2003, Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003

Source: Press Association

line

There has been an explosion in revenge porn over the past few years, largely because of the impact of new technology.

Thousands of people have had sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves published on the internet without their consent but there have only been a few convictions and many say the sentences given aren't enough.

Cazine McCarthy, 21, is from Haverfordwest. Her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty to sharing an obscene/offensive image breaking the telecommunications act.

He was given a restraining order and told not to contact her directly or indirectly.

Cazine says she sent him some "intimate photos" because he worked away from home a lot.

She tells Newsbeat: "I was a bit unsure in the beginning, but he did reassure me that he's never done anything with his ex-girlfriends' things that he's had so I did trust him a bit more then.

Revenge Porn
Cazine McCarthy's ex-boyfriend was given a restraining order

"He was happy, I was happy and then I broke up with him.

"A while after he sent me screenshots of what he had put on my own Instagram account.

"He had put the video and the photos that I gave him on my own Instagram account and changed the password so I couldn't get on to it to delete them."

Cazine says it got worse.

"He actually mailed me himself and he said 'Well done, you're a hit. You've had about 60 followers in one minute.'

"That's when I realised there was a lot of people seeing it.

"Everyone was texting me, mailing me saying: 'What's going on?' That's how I knew how big it got.

"Because he got charged with it there's a lot more awareness about what actually happened now and I seem to be getting a lot of hate about it instead of support."

Students we spoke with say they often see naked posts.

Samuel Cervini, 20, from Cheltenham tells Newsbeat: "One of my girl mates had it done to her. It's horrible as it makes them out to be someone they're not in a way. It makes them look easy."

Revenge Porn
Students Samuel Cervini, Dom Lombard and Odi Hamid from Cheltenham

Odi Hamid also has sympathy. He says: "It's not just like one person will see it. Everybody shares that stuff around, it's going to be seen by everyone and there's nothing you can do about it."

"I still think people are going to do it," says Dom Lombard who doesn't think the new law will work.

"If they've been in a long term relationship sometimes they want to get revenge. Hopefully it will stop but I don't think it will, to be honest."

The Scottish government says there are plans to consult on making revenge porn a specific offence and they now expect this to be brought forward in the near future.

In Northern Ireland the Department for Justice tells Newsbeat there are existing laws to prosecute revenge porn offenders but ministers will consider the case for a new offence.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice says it's launched a campaign aimed at raising awareness about the new law against revenge porn.

The campaign, Be Aware B4 You Share, is in partnership with UK Safer Internet, Woman's Aid and Suzy Lamplugh Trust and is targeted at potential perpetrators to warn them about the possible consequences they face.

It also points victims towards advice and support.

Justice Minister, Shailesh Vara, said: "Revenge porn is humiliating and distressing for the victim.

"We want to make it clear to victims that we take this issue very seriously and will not stand for this malicious betrayal of trust.

"The new offence will make prosecutions more effective and leave those convicted of it facing a possible prison sentence.

"But the real goal is to end revenge porn and our campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the new offence, in order to deter offenders from sharing private intimate photographs and films so we can stop this worrying trend."

Source: bbc.co.uk

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