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Revenge porn laws come into force

Published 13/04/2015

The introduction of the revenge porn law has offered greater protection for victims
The introduction of the revenge porn law has offered greater protection for victims

People who share sexually explicit images without consent could be jailed for up to two years from today, as new revenge porn laws come into force.

Campaigners and victims have welcomed the move, which means those who post private, sexual images of someone without consent and with the intent to cause distress will now face prison.

Prosecutors previously had to find evidence of harassment or copyright infringement when seeking to take someone to court. However, the introduction of the revenge porn law has offered greater protection for victims.

The campaign to ban revenge porn gathered pace - and cross-party political support - following high-profile leaks of intimate celebrity images last year, making victims of pop stars Rihanna and Tulisa Contostavlos.

Campaigner Hannah Thompson, 22, said the move was "a huge step forward".

She said: "I was a victim of revenge porn, and I spent months agonising over it and believing that it was my fault. This new law, along with the advice helpline, empowers victims and clearly displays that they are not at fault.

"I hope all these changes provide victims with a route to justice and aid them in getting their images taken down."

She said "a culture that people could post sexual images without consent, and just get away with it" is now beginning to change.

The first figures of their kind into the prevalence of revenge porn, obtained by the Press Association last year, showed c hildren as young as 11 have been victims, with their perpetrators often evading justice .

There were 149 allegations of crimes involving revenge pornography during the two and a half years to September 2014, according to the eight police forces in England and Wales with data on it. The figures showed t he vast majority of victims were women - with only six incidents resulting in any sort of police caution or charge.

Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, prevention manager with the End Violence Against Women coalition, said there needed to be greater awareness of the issues surrounding revenge porn.

She said: " We are pleased with the introduction of a specific law, but see legislation as just one part of the action needed to stop revenge pornography.

"Prevention, beginning with age-appropriate sex and relationships education in schools, is key to begin changing the attitudes that support forms of sexual violence, as well as broader public awareness campaigns educating adults about the consequences of distributing someone else's private images without consent.

"This work also needs to go hand in hand with funding for specialist provision for women and girls who have experienced any form of violence or harassment, including revenge pornography."

Jef McAllister, managing partner of legal firm McAllister Olivarius, which has represented victims, said he wanted websites to take more responsibility for removing images, to make it a crime regardless of whether the perpetrator "intended" to cause distress, and to introduce an injunction-style measure ensuring the image is removed swiftly.

He said: " It is coming in to people's understanding that revenge porn exists and that it's a problem.

"There is an interesting reaction this time because when it happened years ago to other movie stars, they were the ones who apologised. This time, the movie stars have said these are my intimate images. You don't have the right to do it.

"It's not just a minor phenomenon. I think the law comes at a good time."

The revenge porn offence is introduced today as part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act. Other new laws taking effect include:

:: Increasing the maximum penalty to two years in prison for online trolls who send abusive messages or material;

:: New criminal offences of juror misconduct, including for those who research details of a case;

:: Creating a new offence of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified, carrying a maximum penalty of four years in prison;

:: Making possession of extreme pornography that shows images depicting rape illegal.

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