Plans to criminalise ‘revenge porn threats’ welcomed after high-profile campaign

Ryan Hooper, PA

Campaigners have welcomed moves to make it a criminal offence for people to threaten to share naked, sexual or explicit pictures of videos of another person without their consent.

It is understood that ministers broadly support plans to criminalise those who threaten to leak sex tapes or other explicit content of their partners.

It follows a campaign by the domestic abuse charity Refuge, endorsed by a host of celebrities including Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman and former Love Island contestant Zara McDermott.

The measure would essentially add a “threats to” element to existing revenge porn legislation, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison for those who commit image-based sexual abuse by sharing explicit pictures or video without the subject’s consent, with the intent to cause distress.

Olivia Colman (left) and Zara McDermott are among those who have supported the campaign for the law change (Matt Crossick/ Victoria Jones/PA)
Olivia Colman and Zara McDermott are among those who have supported the campaign for the law change (Matt Crossick/Victoria Jones/PA)

Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external relations, said: “Refuge is beyond delighted to hear that the Government has committed, as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill, we hope, to make threats to share intimate images illegal.

“We have been working around the clock, over many months to bring this to the Government’s attention.

“The success of The Naked Threat campaign has only been possible thanks to the survivors with whom we work, our dedicated tech abuse team, the many supportive politicians such as Baroness Nicky Morgan, Caroline Nokes, and Lord Ken Macdonald and supporters such as Olivia Colman and Zara McDermott.”

She added: “This commitment shows that the Government is willing to listen to their needs and experiences and put them front and centre of their efforts to tackle domestic abuse.”

Baroness Morgan has spoken in support of the law change to criminalise those who threaten to release so-called revenge porn (Paul Ellis/PA)
Baroness Morgan has spoken in support of a change in the law to criminalise those who threaten to release so-called revenge porn (Paul Ellis/PA)

A survey commissioned by Refuge previously found that one in 14 adults in England and Wales had experienced threats to share intimate images or videos.

The survey suggested that threats to share intimate images are most prevalent among people aged 18-34, with one in seven young women experiencing such threats.

During a debate in the House of Lords on Monday night, Baroness Morgan pressed the case for a change in the law.

She said: “The actual sharing of the images might take place, but, just as likely, if a partner or ex-partner wants to exercise control over and play havoc with their victim’s life, they will leave the threat hanging out there, often for many years.

“So the police and everyone else need to know and be clear in their own minds that the making of threats is an offence and should be prosecuted, in the same way as the actual sharing of intimate images was made a crime by this Government.”

She said creating the law, in an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, “would protect millions of women and victims of domestic abuse sooner than some indefinite date in the future”.

The matter is due back before MPs in the coming weeks.

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