As a family lawyer, I have come across many concerns from clients that their former partner will use intimate photos they shared during their relationship.
These are known as ‘ex revenge pics’ or ‘revenge porn’, used to pressure them in legal negotiations, to intimidate or simply as an act of spite to humiliate and embarrass them.
The usual threats are that the aggrieved former partner will post the revenge photos online or send them to their workplace. I am therefore not surprised to learn that there were 149 reported and recorded allegations of revenge pictures made in the last 2.5 years.
Why have revenge images and revenge porn become such an issue?
The sharing of intimate photos between prospective acquaintances shall we call them is rife with apps like Snapchat. In today’s modern society we often store photos and videos online in an account or on the hard drive of our computers without appreciating that they are then susceptible to hackers. The Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence recently learned this lesson the hard way.
Who owns the revenge photo?
Until recently, the issue of revenge porn has been one that has been difficult to deal with, as according to Intellectual Property laws the owner of the photo is the person who captured it, and not the person in the photo. However, some intimate photos are taken as selfies meaning the person in the shot is the owner of the photo but even in these cases, this can offer little practical assistance to someone who has been threatened with the sharing of such a photo.
When these kind of revenge pictures are posted online, in my experience, it is possible to get the website host (whether based in the UK or abroad) to remove them – but of course, this is after the photo has been posted and the damage has been caused so to speak. Unless the victim is the owner of the photo, there is often little recourse they can take against the offender.
Is the question of revenge porn being addressed?
The government has therefore had to act against what the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling terms “disgusting behaviour”, and has passed the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. This Bill has completed its journey through Parliament but is currently waiting Royal Assent which is expected in spring time.
When implemented, this law will make it a criminal offence to physically distribute, send by text message and post online, intimate photos or videos of a person without their consent – and the punishment could be 2 years imprisonment. It defines ‘revenge porn’ as:
‘photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public.’
This wide definition and the available sanctions should hopefully deter potential offenders from committing the offence and in those cases where it does not, it will at least give victims criminal recourse to punish the offender.
It is not surprising that England and Wales is not the first jurisdiction to criminalise this kind of behaviour - Israel, France, Germany and 16 US states have already done so. Other countries are therefore also recognising that revenge porn is a serious issue and criminal sanctions do need to be available.
If you need advice on how to deal with ‘revenge porn’ then please complete our enquiry form and we will be in contact to help.
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