Key points around the laws covering image-based sexual abuse

A report by academics will be presented to MPs on Monday calling for a major overhaul of existing laws covering image-based sexual abuse.

Here are some key points:

– What is image-based sexual abuse?

The term covers many areas of criminal behaviour, such as revenge porn, fakeporn and upskirting.

Campaigners prefer to use this wording because they feel the inclusion of words such as porn suggests consent from the subject, while revenge implies the victim did something to warrant being on the receiving end.

– But aren’t these things illegal anyway?

The UK has a patchwork approach towards this sort of offending – for example, upskirting was a criminal offence in Scotland several years before it was made illegal in England and Wales.

More importantly, perhaps, is that similar offences are dealt with in different ways.

Upskirting, for example, is classed as a specific sexual offence, while revenge porn falls under communications legislation.

– Why does that matter?

Not only does it matter, campaigners say it is a crucial distinction.

Simply, crimes treated under sexual offences legislation mean automatic anonymity for victims.

Without it, newspapers – but more likely, social media users – can legally name victims of revenge porn.

Newspapers tend to take the universal view that revenge porn victims should not have their anguish furthered by being named, just because there is no law preventing it.

Social media users are less concerned with acting in this spirit.

– What about fakeporn then? Surely that’s illegal?

As is the case with many of these offences, not all of these crimes are specific offences – despite the majority of people feeling that they ought to be.

Currently, fakeporn, where images or videos of a person are grafted on to naked torsos or other explicit content, is not a specific offence.

The Ministry of Justice says the behaviour can be prosecuted under voyeurism laws.

But the reality is, there have been no known prosecutions for fakeporn, partly because the criteria under voyeurism laws is seldom met.

– So what next?

The Government has repeatedly said its laws relating to image-based sexual abuse are “robust” but that they are “constantly under review”.

That consideration is largely down to the fact that advancements in technology often leave existing laws behind.

Campaigners are hopeful the Government will heed their calls for an urgent update.

It was announced on Wednesday that the Government has asked the Law Commission to examine the law and whether any changes need to be made – however, changes can take quite some time to come to fruition.

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