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Today marks 4 years of intimate image abuse law

Today marks four years since the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 came into force, which made the disclosure of private sexual photographs and films without consent a criminal offence in England and Wales. While we welcome a law being in place, we think that it could be amended to make it more effective at protecting victims and giving them justice when things go wrong...

  • The current law is not classed as a sexual offence, which means that victims are not guaranteed anonymity through the police and court processes despite the invasive and violating nature of the crime. 
  • The law as it stands does not includes threats to share intimate images, it is dealt with within the Communications Act. However, 25% of our clients come to us because they are being threatened with having their intimate images shared. These threats come with a background of abusive behaviour, attempts to control and blackmail and the law should be more effective at protecting them.
  • The law states that someone who shares an intimate image without consent, must have done so with the intention to cause distress, so if they did it because they thought the person wouldn’t find out or they wouldn’t mind, then that is a defence. We think that’s not good enough: it should be an offence to share images without consent for any reason.
  • The current definition of a sexual image for this crime includes female breasts, genitals and sexual activity; this excludes a wide range of images, for instance in underwear, that can cause extreme distress to someone if they are shared and we think they should be included.
  • The law excludes an image that has been manipulated, for instance using Photoshop, where it is the change that makes the image sexual. We think these images should be included: with technology becoming ever more sophisticated, anyone can create images that appear to show anything. The harm caused by an image that looks like it’s someone intimate image, is not much different to the real thing.
     

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