‘Revenge Porn’ Crimes Could Lead to 14-Year Sentences in the U.K.

Oct 8, 2014 6:00 AM PST

LONDON — The U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service said this week that it has updated its legal guidance for "revenge porn" prosecutions.

The agency said it prosecutes revenge porn cases using a range of current laws, notwithstanding the Obscene Publications Act.

But this is the first time that it has listed laws that can be used against perpetrators.

The Crown Prosecution Service noted that the most serious law that could be incorporated in a revenge porn prosecution would fall under child protection and sexual offenses laws that carry sentences of up to 14 years.

Revenge porn is typically sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual. Sometimes the images are often accompanied by personal information including the pictured individual's full name, links to social media profiles and address.

The Crown Prosecution Service offered the following legal guidance for revenge porn prosecutions:

  • The issue in cases of revenge porn will be whether the message or communication is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false — not whether the image itself is indecent or obscene.
  • Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 deals with the sending of electronic communications which are indecent, grossly offensive, threatening or false, provided there is an intention to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient.
  • Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send or cause to be sent through a public electronic communications network a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character'.
  • Where there is more than one incident, or the incident forms part of a course of conduct directed towards an individual, a charge of harassment should be considered.
  • Where the images may have been taken when the victim was under 18, prosecutors will consider offences under the Protection of Children Act 1978.
  • In the most serious cases, where intimate images are used to coerce victims into further sexual activity, other offenses under the Sexual Offenses Act 2003 will be considered.

"In all cases the Crown Prosecution Service will apply the most appropriate law which best addresses the alleged offending," the agency said in a memo. "It is a matter for Parliament to decide if further laws are needed or if changes need to be made to the current legislation."

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