The end is coming for ‘revenge porn’

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The days of bitter people taking their revenge out online by posting intimate images of their ex partners are now numbered.

From April 1, when the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act comes into force, the practice commonly known as ‘revenge porn’ – public posting of, or threat to post, sexual images online in an attempt to get back at someone – will be a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Justice Secretary, and Falkirk West MSP, Michael Matheson said: “We will not tolerate domestic abuse and harassment in a progressive and modern Scotland, which is why we have taken these measures to create this new criminal offence.

“Recklessly disclosing private and intimate images taken when privacy is expected can be extremely cruel and degrading for victims, as well as causing fear and alarm. It may also be symptomatic of highly abusive and manipulative behaviour towards an ex-partner.

“This new offence sends out a strong warning to anyone considering sharing such images. This move reflects technological changes and acknowledges the distress inflicted by this serious crime.”

The specific new law is being introduced to address a growing problem – as easy access to devices like smart phones mean pictures and videos taken with the expectation of privacy can now be easily shared publicly online through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The offence will cover situations where someone shares either filmed and still images of another person in an intimate situation. This includes images taken in private where someone is nude or clothed only in underwear or showing a person engaged in a sexual act.

There were two cases of so called ‘revenge porn’ heard at Falkirk Sheriff Court late last year.

In October Christopher Watt, from Bainsford, was jailed for six months after he pled guilty to causing fear and alarm by posting naked pictures of his former girlfriend on her Facebook page. The “humiliating” snaps appeared just months after she had given birth to their daughter.

At the time Sheriff Derek Livingston told Watt: “You set out to humiliate this woman and did so. This is a case of ‘revenge porn’ and will lead to a significant sentence.”

Under the new legislation it will also be a recognised offence to threaten to post images.

Also in October last year, professional footballer Stewart Devine, from Cowie, was penalised by the courts for posting threatening tweets about his ex-girlfriend on Twitter.

Devine pled guilty to causing the woman fear and alarm, bombarding the Twitter accounts of her employer saying he had “naughty pictures” of her that he was going to make public online.

It turned out to be an empty threat, but Sheriff Livingston placed Devine on a supervised community payback order for two years, ordered him to pay £1000 to his victim and made him subject to a non-harassment order.