During the course of relationships it is not uncommon for parties to take private sexual photos or videos of each other. The difficulty is what happens to those photos following separation, and how they are used i.e. whether they should be retained or deleted. What is clear from the recent changes in the law is that those images/videos should not be shared or distributed under any circumstances.
Placing private photographs on the internet has become a common occurrence between separated parties who are upset at the ending of their relationship. Posting of such photographs on the internet is referred to as ‘revenge porn’, and includes sharing private sexual photographs / videos of another person without their consent, with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. Sharing of these images can have devastating consequences for victims, as well as an impact on their mental health and wellbeing, particularly when these images are posted with personal information about the victim, such as their full name and address and have been linked to their social media profiles.
Posting such images and videos is now a specific offence in England and Wales under an Amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts bill which came into effect in February 2015. Those convicted can face a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.
Images that are sent both online and offline include images shared by text and email, uploaded to website, or by physical distribution. The view of Parliament and the courts is that it is inappropriate for people to maliciously distribute intimate photographs of an individual without their consent. People are entitled to expect a reasonable level of respect and privacy, and it is right that those who circulate these images are held to account.
Parties who are separating need to be aware that, however difficult the circumstances of their separation, it is essential that they do not distribute any intimate images held of their former partner for whatever reason or by whatever means as they are likely to face criminal sanctions.