Sharing sexual images and videos via digital media on devices such as smartphones has become the norm in today’s society. However, once the image or video has been sent, the sender no longer has control over it and it’s possible for the recipient to share the sexual image or video across many different platforms – with or without the consent of the sender.

What is revenge porn?

Revenge porn as it is now commonly known, involves the distribution of private and personal explicit images or video footage of an individual without their consent, with the intention of causing them embarrassment and distress. Often revenge porn is used maliciously to shame ex-partners.

Revenge porn was made a specific offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. The Act specifies that if you are accused of revenge porn and found guilty of the criminal offence, you could be prosecuted and face a sentence of up to two years in prison.

A 2016 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) report stated that 206 people were prosecuted for revenge porn in the first year of the offence becoming classified. It is anticipated that this number may increase given the proliferation and popularity of social media as a platform for sharing and communication on all levels.

Prior to the legislation regarding revenge porn being passed in 2015, the Justice Secretary at the time – Chris Grayling – said, ‘….we want those who fall victim to this type of behaviour to know that we are on their side. That is why we will change the law and make it clear to those who act in this way that they could face prison.’

Laws concerning revenge porn

UK revenge porn law classifies a number of offences, including:

  1. The non-consensual sharing of any explicit film or photograph showing people engaged in a sexual activity
  2. The non-consensual sharing of any explicit film or photograph showing an individual depicted in a sexual way or with their private parts exposed, where what is visible in the image would not be seen in public

The revenge porn law covers the sharing of this explicit media both online and offline. This includes:

  1. Anything posted on social networking sites such as Facebook
  2. Messages shared via text or messaging apps such as WhatsApp
  3. Images and videos shared via email
  4. Images and videos published on a website
  5. The distribution of physical copies such as photographs, discs or tapes

Under the law, the definition of ‘private’ is any material that would not normally be viewed by the public. ‘Sexual’ refers to images or videos that expose the genitals or that contain content that a reasonable individual would consider as sexual.

Revenge porn legislation in the UK does not require that the explicit material in question contains both images of a person engaged in a sexual activity and a state of full or partial nudity. The victim could be fully clothed and taking part in a sexual activity and the sharing of this material would still qualify as a criminal offence.

What should you do if you have been accused of revenge pornography?

If you have been accused of the criminal offence of revenge porn or you anticipate being arrested for committing the crime, you should act immediately and seek expert legal advice.

The prosecution of revenge porn cases has been treated very severely by the criminal courts, with custodial sentences frequently being imposed. The courts view the sharing of such intimate material as an extremely serious offence, with sentences reflecting where the material has been published or sent and how intimate the material may be. Once the alleged crime is being investigated, the police will work with the Crown Prosecution Service to take forward the case for prosecution, with the case often relying on a digital footprint.The social stigma surrounding cases of revenge porn involves dealing with heightened emotions and complex, life changing decision making. Acting early upon accusation ensures you are able to secure the best possible outcome for your case.

At Lawtons, our priority is to obtain the most desirable result whilst limiting any damage to your reputation. We will do everything possible to challenge the prosecution’s case. Get in touch with our specialist sexual offence solicitors, who can provide expert advice and assistance.