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The law in England and Wales

What is the law in England and Wales?

In April 2015, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act made it, 'an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film, and with the intention of causing that individual distress'. 

See the full legislation here.

In April 2017, the Sentencing Council included the ‘threat to disclose intimate material or sexually explicit images’, within its guideline for offences under the Communications Act 2003. These guidelines came into effect from 1st October 2018.

Sentencing guidelines: Disclosing private sexual images, (Effective from 1st October 2018). 
Sentencing guidelines: Communication network offences (Revised 2017)

What are the sentencing guidelines? Guidelines provide guidance on factors the court should take into account that may affect the sentence given. They set out different levels of the sentence based on the harm caused to the victim and how blameworthy the offender is. Offences happen in many different ways with many different results.

The Isle of Man

The distribution and threat to distribute intimate images without consent is included in the Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Bill (2019), this is yet to be passed into current law. 

See the proposed Bill here 


Since the creation of intimate image abuse offences in the UK, a large amount of cases of victims taking their perpetrators to the justice system are dropped due to their anonymity being denied. It was reported in June 2018, that 1 in 3 allegations were dropped before making it to court (See this BBC article here)

In other sexual offences, such as rape, the identity of the victim is hidden from media and the general public and their name or any personal information cannot be released. For victims of intimate image abuse, their identity is not hidden. Due to the distress and humiliation nature of the offence, this often discourages victims to pursue their justice rights. 

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