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What is the law on revenge porn?

View profile for Colin Rawson
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What is the law on revenge porn?

Due to advances in technology and the increased use of social media by nearly everyone in the country most people have the means to share images widely. It is very easy for a person, in haste, to post something online which they later regret.  Sometimes this can be a crime.

In 2014 a number of UK charities campaigned for a change in the law highlighting that photographs and videos were being uploaded on revenge porn websites and the effect this was having on victims.

On the 13th April 2015 Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 came into force. This created a new criminal offence of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress. This is more commonly known as revenge porn.

Although the police and prosecutors had the power to deal with such offences under different legislation (Communications Act 2003, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 or Protection from Harassment Act 1997), the legislation introduced in 2015 made sharing of such images or films a specific offence in its own right and covered all social media platforms and electronic communication.

Section 33(1) states:

It is an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made (a) without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film, and

(b) with the intention of causing that individual distress. 

What does private/ sexual mean?  

If the photograph or film shows something that is not ordinarily seen in public, this will been deemed to be private. The photograph or image would be sexual if it shows part of that person’s genitals or private areas or if a reasonable person seeing that image or video believes it to be sexual.

What defences are there to this offence?

The legislation does provide various defences within the act:

  1. It is not an offence under this section for the person to disclose the photograph or film to the individual shown in the photo or film
  2. It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he or she reasonably believed that the disclosure was necessary for the purposes of preventing, detecting or investigating crime
  3. It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to show that the disclosure was made in the course of, or with a view to, the publication of journalistic material, and he or she reasonably believed that it was in the public interest
  4. It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to show that he or she reasonably believed that the photograph or film had previously been disclosed for reward, whether by the individual or another person, and he or she had no reason to believe that the previous disclosure for reward was made without the consent of the individual.

What sentence could someone receive for this offence?

A person found guilty of this offence can be sentenced to a period of imprisonment of up to two years. Therefore it is imperative that individuals are aware of this criminal offence and seek legal advice from a firm which specialises in this area of law.

Recent case

I was instructed to represent a client who had sent a naked photograph of an ex partner to one of her friends when she did not repay the money which he was owed by her. After careful consideration of the evidence I advised my client that he should enter a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity to obtain as much credit as possible. I mitigated on the client’s behalf during the sentencing hearing which resulted in the client receiving a community order.

If you are under investigation for a revenge porn offence please do not hesitate to contact us for confidential initial advice on 0175 321 6399 or complete our online enquiry form.

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