DCSIMG

Call for internet revenge porn legislation

Frank Mulholland QC. Picture: TSPL

Frank Mulholland QC. Picture: TSPL

  • by JONATHAN WHITELAW
 

SCOTLAND’s Lord Advocate tonight called for specific legislation to deal with growing problem of individuals posting so-called revenge porn on the internet.

Frank Mulholland QC said new laws are needed to deal with those who upload sexually explicit images of people online without their consent.

The Crown Office said it has seen instances where pictures and videos have been used as a way of blackmailing or harassing ex-partners in particular.

In some reported cases the perpetrator has threatened to or indeed sent such material to friends or family for the purpose of embarrassing the victim.

Under existing legislation there have been five convictions in Scotland. Prosecutors can use blackmail, breach of the peace, and stalking laws, among others, against suspects.

But Mr Mulholland is calling for a specific law to be created to combat what is regarded as a growing problem.

He said such a move would reinforce the message that the practice is illegal. It would also give victims the confidence to come forward and report such abuse, he said.

Last September Police Scotland said there had been just 14 reports of such cases to officers nationwide.

Mr Mulholland said: “We can and do prosecute this crime robustly using existing legislation. However, it is a growing problem and specific legislation would send a signal to those who do this that they face jail.

“There have been five successful prosecutions in Scotland under existing legislation, however it is important that the issue be considered by the Scottish Parliament.

“We understand the effect this crime has on victims. Those who post images online in this way are trying to cause fear and alarm, it is designed to humiliate. Following discussions with campaigners I believe there is significant under reporting of this issue possibly because those affected are too embarrassed to come forward or fear they will be blamed.

“I hope it would also give greater confidence to victims to report cases. Society needs to deliver a message that this is unacceptable and that the victim is in no way responsible just because they may have consented to an image being taken for personal use.”

Christina McKelvie, a Nationalist MSP, has previously raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament, highlighting that advances in technology have led to what she said is a form of domestic abuse.

She has previously said: “These actions are exploitative and cruel. They ruin lives and cost people their self-respect and sometimes their jobs.”

Tanya Rhodes, from Scottish Women’s Aid, welcomed the Lord Advocate’s comments.

She said: “We are pleased to hear the Lord Advocate’s view that revenge porn needs to be recognised in new legislation.

“We’d urge any woman in this situation to call the police – you’ve done nothing wrong and it’s not your fault. No woman should be made to feel ashamed for what has gone on within an intimate relationship, nor should it be used to abuse, control or humiliate her.

“Revenge porn is an extreme betrayal of trust and is rapidly emerging as one of the most spiteful and pernicious crimes of the online generation. Modern crimes require modern legal tools, and we support the Lord Advocate’s call for a review.”

In addition to the posting of images by ex-partners, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre has warned that hundreds of children from the UK have been tricked into posting explicit videos of themselves.

Daniel Perry, 17, from Dunfermline, took his own life in July 2013 after being tricked into thinking he was talking to an American girl online.

He was then told their video conversations would be sent to friends and family if he did not hand over money.

The Scottish Government acknowledged revenge porn is a problem.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government always keeps criminal law under review. There is no doubt that there may be advantages to the creation of a specific criminal offence relating to revenge pornography and the Scottish Government will give this matter careful consideration.”

 

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