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26/03/17 10:00

Penalties for sharing intimate images

Campaign highlights consequences of distributing images without consent.

A new public information campaign will warn of the severe penalties people will face for sharing an intimate image or video of someone without their permission.

Those found guilty of sharing or threatening to share intimate images without consent will face up to five years imprisonment under the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act, passed last year.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“Disclosing private images can be extremely cruel and degrading, and can cause fear and alarm. Sharing, or threatening to share, such images can also be used in a highly abusive and manipulative way to seek to control a partner or ex-partner.

“We have developed this campaign together with key agencies including Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, ASSIST, Police Scotland and the Crown Office to ensure it reflects what we know is happening across Scotland and beyond. These organisations are seeing first-hand the incredible pain being caused by intimate images being passed around.

“Too many people are suffering because pictures of them, that they believed were only for a trusted person to see, are being shared online. Through this campaign and, working with the police and others, I’m determined to drive home the message that there is no place for victimisation like this in a modern Scotland and that those who think otherwise will soon face the full force of the law.”

Sandy Brindley, National Coordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland for inclusion in the release:

“Rape Crisis Scotland welcomes these new provisions under the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act and the recognition they signify of the seriousness of non-consensual sharing of images as well as the links between this and other forms of sexual violence. Sharing or threatening to share intimate images of someone without their consent is a serious violation and can be devastating to individuals targeted. This behaviour has emerged increasingly in recent years as a factor in sexually abusive behaviour, and in highlighting it as a serious criminal offence which will attract a substantial penalty this legislation is an important and necessary development.”

The commencement date for the new law coming into force will be confirmed in the coming months, with the campaign running ahead of that.

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act also introduces a requirement for judges, when dealing with sexual offence cases, to direct juries on how people may respond to becoming a victim of rape.

This is designed to ensure any pre-conceived views about how someone who has been raped should react do not influence how a jury reaches a decision in a case.

Background

Sharing images of someone without permission with malicious intentions is often referred to as ‘revenge porn’, however this term can be misleading as it fails to reflect the fact that these cases do not always involve ex-partners seeking ‘revenge’ and does not reflect the full extent of the types of case that are covered by the new law and is felt by those working with victims to undermine the seriousness of the damage inflicted. 

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act is intended to improve how the justice system responds to abusive behaviour, including domestic abuse and sexual harm, helping to improve public safety by ensuring that perpetrators are appropriately held to account for their conduct. The Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2016 and followed a consultation in 2015 - Equally Safe - Reforming the criminal law to address domestic abuse and sexual offences - which sought views on issues relating to how the criminal law and criminal justice system addresses domestic abuse and sexual offences. The Act will also extend the extra-territorial effect of the law concerning sexual offences committed against children so that Scottish courts can prosecute offences committed elsewhere in the United Kingdom in the same way that they can where they are committed outside the UK. This is intended to reduce the potential trauma of victims having to face more than one trial in relation to connected events (by allowing a trial to take place in Scotland of offences that may have occurred in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and Scotland).

The Scottish Government is currently liaising with the UK Government to ensure that the required changes on matters reserved to the UK Parliament are made to enable the intimate images offence to be brought into force later this year.

Other provisions of the Act, including for jury directions and extra-territorial jurisdiction, will come into force on 24 April.

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