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Disclosing private sexual images or ‘revenge porn’

“Revenge porn”, more formally known as the offence of disclosing private sexual images, is the criminal act of posting online intimate sexual pictures/video of a person without their consent.

It carries a potential prison sentence of up to 2 years.  We await the outcome of the consultation into a sentencing guideline for this offence.

Revenge porn used to cause maximum distress

In the meantime, however, it is clear that the most serious type of revenge porn will be conduct that is intended to maximise distress.  revenge porn disclosing private sexual imagesThis might be where images are sent to  victim’s family who are very religious, or to a victim’s young siblings.  Offending that involves setting up fake internet profiles purporting to be the victim and inviting abuse or sexualised contact from strangers will also be treated very seriously.

At the other end of the sentencing range will be impulsive posting of revenge porn or where the offending is by those affected by a mental disorder or learning disability.

revenge porn disclosing private sexual imagesAside from the manner of the offending, a court will also consider level of harm caused in any particular case.  Where very serious distress has been caused, or a victim is particularly vulnerable, or there had been a very real practical impact on a victim then these factors will all increase the seriousness of the offence and therefore the sentence.

Such cases will include instances of images being posted a victim’s business website, or circulated to business contacts.

Case Study

The offender and the victim had briefly been in a relationship which ended acrimoniously. He sent the victim an email which contained a naked picture of her and said he would post it on social media to
‘teach her a lesson’.

She discovered that he had created a false account in her name and used the naked photograph as the profile picture. He had also posted three other intimate photographs of her. The false account had been used to contact 12 of the victim’s friends. She contacted the social media company and they agreed to close the account but this took two days.

A few weeks later B set up another false account in the same way and then he used a different social media platform to send the photograph to some of the victim’s work colleagues.  The victim and her friends contacted the social media companies and eventually had the photographs removed. In total the naked picture of her was live on social media sites for 18 days.

The victim reported that the incidents had left her feeling extremely embarrassed and anxious.

The offender made admissions in police interview and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.   On the proposed guideline he could expect a sentence of 20 weeks immediate imprisonment.

revenge porn disclosing private sexual images

Another reason to think twice about revenge porn

If the prospect of a prison sentence is insufficient deterrent, a recent case shows that there is another good reason to think twice before exacting this type of revenge on a former lover.

Celebrity vlogger Chrissy Chambers took the matter one step further in launching an action in the High Court designed to secure no further infringement of her rights as well as substantial financial damages.

revenge porn disclosing private sexual imagesHer ex-partner allowed six sexual videos to be uploaded to the adult site redtube.com.  Ms Chambers was identified by name in three of those videos.  The videos were filmed in her home, but without her consent, and showed sexual activity between her and her then partner.

She argued in court that this conduct had caused her ‘serious distress’ resulting in post-traumatic distress disorder.

In the 19 months that the videos were online a large number of people had viewed them, including some people who wrote to her expressing their displeasure at the belief that she was ‘intentionally involved in pornography’.  These viewers were affected to such a degree that they did not wish to continue watching her YouTube channel.

High Court Financial Settlement

revenge porn disclosing private sexual imagesIn a settlement agreed by the High Court on 18th January 2018, her partner accepted that the posting of the videos was in breach of confidence, misuse of private information and a breach of her Article 8 rights (the right to privacy).  To provide future protection, copyright in the videos was transferred to her.

While this is not the first action of its kind (singer Tulisa Contostavlos brought a similar case in 2012), it is notable that Ms Chambers has actively sought publicity about this case, when she could have chosen anonymity.

The legal action was funded by way of a crowd-funding campaign, itself designed to raise public awareness of this issue.

By doing so, she has put this issue into the public domain, and it may well act as a deterrent to those thinking of doing something similar in future.  It is also a reminder to victims that there could be an easy route to substantial damages, provided of course that the person committing this unlawful act has the means to pay them.

Contact us for specialist legal advice about disclosing private sexual images

It may be that you acted without thinking, or it may be that you are not responsible for the offending.  Either way, we will be able to provide you with advice and representation whether your case is a guilty plea or will be prepared for trial.

Please contact one of our experts in criminal law at your nearest office.  Alternatively you can use the contact form below.

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