Ex-lovers could face jail under revenge porn law

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Picture: TSPL
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A NEW offence could be introduced in Scotland to target those who seek to humiliate ex-partners by posting so-called “revenge porn” online.

The Scottish Government said it was “exploring seriously” the possibility of bringing forward new legislation which would punish those publishing or distributing explicit images or video without consent.

The development comes after Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland called for “bespoke legislation” to tackle what he called a “growing problem”.

Moves are already under way in England and Wales to introduce an offence, which would see anyone posting or sharing intimate photographs or videos jailed for up to two years.

The problem of people publishing explicit images of former partners on the internet has continued to grow in recent years with the rise of mobile technology and social media. However, it is thought many victims are too afraid or embarrassed to come forward.

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Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes has now written to justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, calling on the Scottish Government to follow Westminster in bringing forward a specific offence to tackle what she called “vile and damaging acts”. She said: “The Lord Advocate has expressed concerns that there is significant under-reporting of this issue.

“It is important that victims don’t suffer in silence and know that they have done nothing wrong. I believe that introducing specific legislation to tackle these despicable and cowardly acts will give victims confidence that such violations of their privacy are unacceptable and illegal.

“In addition to empowering more people to seek justice, creating a specific criminal offence would help overcome any archaic attitudes towards the use of revenge pornography as a cruel tool to distress, embarrass, manipulate or humiliate someone.”

• ‘Revenge porn sites must end anonymity’

The Scottish Government said it expected to make a formal announcement in the near future.

It said: “[We are] already exploring seriously the creation of a specific new offence for posting or distributing revenge pornography. This activity is designed to humiliate the victim and there are existing laws that can be used to prosecute. We supported the Lord Advocate when he raised this issue earlier this year and highlighted the very damaging effect this type of behaviour can have on victims.”

A new offence could also include written text or sound files of an intimate nature. When the Lord Advocate raised the issue earlier this year, there had been five successful prosecutions under existing legislation.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “We are committed to the prosecution of these offences.”

Hazel’s story: ‘I felt so vulnerable and violated – it was like I’d been raped’

HAZEL Higgleton found out she had become a victim of revenge porn when she was sent links to a video on Facebook.

It was only when she opened the clip that she realised it showed explicit footage of her and her ex-boyfriend.

Earlier this year, the 24-year-old said: “I shut the computer straight down. I thought I was going to be sick.

“I felt so vulnerable and violated. I just thought, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ It was like I’d been raped. Here were these incredibly explicit videos of me online without my consent.”

The online video began to be circulated in the weeks after she had ended the relationship.

Hazel, from Chelmsford in Essex, said the matter had been reported to the police, who told her they could only act if her former boyfriend continued to harass her.

Hannah’s story: ‘It wasn’t an act of bravery, it was an act of desperation’

HANNAH Thompson, 21, had been seeing her boyfriend “on and off” for two years since she was 18 – the couple even had plans to move in together at one point.

But when she broke their relationship off, she became aware her former partner had posted images of her on a blog he ran.

“When I scrolled back, I came across images of myself and other girls,” she said. “It was quite shocking, to say the least.”

Hannah contacted her ex-boyfriend and asked him to stop. He apologised and said he would, but in the months that followed he began posting increasingly graphic images.

Initially, the images had not shown her face, but Hannah still felt she was identifiable. She said: “I held off going to the police. I didn’t want to get him in trouble – I just wanted him to stop. I clung on to the hope that the police would be the last resort, but when they told me they couldn’t help, I felt lost.”

Hannah, who lives in Surrey, said the police told her there was no specific offence to cover what her former partner had done.

She said she felt she had no choice but to go public in the hope of shaming her former boyfriend into stopping.

“It wasn’t an act of bravery coming forward, it was an act of desperation.

“I started researching the issue and I found whole websites dedicated to it and organisations trying to help girls. It’s a lot more widespread than I thought it would be. I have had countless men and women telling me this has happened to them or their children. I think legislation is a really positive step. When talking to other victims the thing you hear again and again is how alone and lost people felt.”

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