05:13, July 05 198 0 theguardian.com

2018-07-05 05:13:04
Courts get punishment guidelines for revenge porn offences

Courts have for the first time been given guidelines on how to punish people who humiliate ex-lovers by uploading so-called revenge porn to the internet.

Repeatedly reposting private sexual images and videos after they have been taken offline will earn offenders sentences of up to two years when new instructions are introduced to courts in October.

Labour recently called for victims of revenge porn to be given anonymity like victims of other sexual offences as the government pushes through its “upskirting” bill, while there have been calls for schools to do more to recognise the damage of new, online forms of sexual harassment.

Two Love Island constants, Zara McDermott and Laura Anderson, reportedly had explicit images of them shared online while they appeared on the reality TV show but thousands of lesser known figures have also suffered the same ignominy.

Courts have, until now, been unclear on the requisite punishment for perpetrators of these types of “intimidatory” offences.

The guidelines – published on Thursday – will come into force on 1 October and also cover stalking and harassment cases.

Sentencing Council member Judge Rosa Dean said courts would now have comprehensive guidance “that will help ensure sentences reflect the seriousness of these offences”.

“Our guidelines recognise and reflect the very intimate, personal and intrusive nature of these offences, which can have devastating, often long-term impacts on victims and their families,” she said.

People who set up fake social media profiles or websites to amplify the embarrassment of their targets, which could result in abuse and sexualised contact from strangers, can also expect to receive the harshest penalties available.

The offence of disclosing private sexual images without consent was introduced in 2015 and carries a maximum sentence of two years.

In 2016/17, there were 465 prosecutions over revenge porn allegations in England and Wales.

Justice minister Rory Stewart said such crimes could have a “devastating and deeply traumatising effect on victims”.

“These new guidelines will ensure that our courts recognise the serious harm caused to victims, and that perpetrators are properly punished,” he said.

The guideline on meting more severe punishments to those who make “repeated efforts to keep images available for viewing” was added following last year’s consultation after the practice was identified among some offenders.

Stalking, controlling and coercive behaviour and threats to kill are also covered by the new guidance, which has been significantly expanded for harassment offences.

The crime of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship was introduced in December 2015 to crack down on repeated abuse in domestic settings.

It can apply to a range of conduct such as controlling victims through social media, spying on them online, stopping them from socialising or refusing them access to money. Offenders can face up to five years in jail.

Following the consultation, controlling or coercive behaviour that results in debt or homelessness has been listed as a possible “aggravating” factor after this was highlighted as an effect of these crimes when an offender controls the victim’s access to their money.

The guidelines reflect recent legislative changes that doubled the maximum sentences for stalking and harassment from five years to 10; and from seven to 14 years if the offence was racially or religiously aggravated.

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