Police Commissioner supports greater protection for victims of revenge porn and upskirting

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner is supporting a campaign for victims of revenge pornography and upskirting to be better protected by the law.

Dame Vera Baird QC is calling upon the government to recognise the non-consensual nature of such emerging forms of image-based sexual abuse.

She said: “The law does not currently adequately protect victims of upskirting, another emerging form of image-based sexual violence.

"I am disappointed to learn that the bill has been blocked today, after being brought by MP Wera Hobhouse, but I very much hope the government will still take the moves required to give the support it offered to victims.”

The government have previously declined to offer victims of revenge pornography anonymity and Dame Vera argues that victims of all image-based sexual crimes should have that legal benefit.

Dame Vera said: “We disagree with the Ministry of Justice’s stance that these are not sexual crimes.

"They are and the motive for the offence is not the point.

"The key issue is consent in both the cases of revenge pornography and upskirting just as it is with other sexual offences.

"The publishing of these images is a disgusting practice that can have an extremely distressing impact on victims.

"The criminal justice system should be thwarting such behaviour, but instead it is failing to protect complainants.”

Campaigners believe that the current law is discouraging victims in particular from reporting a revenge porn offence, in fear that it will draw further attention to their experience.

Nationally, there has been a drop in charges secured for revenge pornography offence, despite reports rising.

In 2015 14% of cases resulted in a charge, but in 2017-18, this fell to only 7%.

The national picture is also reflected in Northumbria, where in 34% of cases the victim has not supported a prosecution.

Dame Vera continues: "It is time for the government to deal with this emerging category of crime as a whole.

"I hope that the government will support Ms Hobhouse and act swiftly to deter perpetrators, whilst supporting victims.

"It would be even better if the government tackled all emerging technological offences, by criminalising a simple offence of ‘image-based sexual abuse’, as proposed by Clare McGlynn at Durham University Law School to cover threats to create and distribute as well as the creation and distribution of sexual images without consent.

"Police would thus have a flexible way to take immediate action on emerging forms of abuse and would send a clear message that any form of online/technology-based abuse is unacceptable."