'Revenge Porn' Targeted In New Bill

So-called revenge porn is being targeted in a new Bill introduced by the Scottish Government today.

Scotland's top prosecutor, the Lord Advocate, welcomed the move to tackle the "form of insidious abuse'' - often against women - which in some cases has led to people taking their own lives.

The Bill will also strengthen the powers available to the police, prosecutors and the courts to take action against perpetrators of domestic abuse, harassment and sexual offences.

"This Bill sends out a strong message that domestic violence will simply not be tolerated,'' Scotland's Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said.

The proposed measures are contained within the new Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill.

As well as aiming to improve access to justice for survivors of domestic abuse, the Bill creates an offence of sharing private intimate images without consent - often called revenge porn - reflecting the way modern technology can be used to perpetrate abuse.

Under further proposals, judges will also be required to give juries specific directions when dealing with sexual offence cases, which are designed to improve juries' understanding of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

A new statutory domestic abuse aggravator will also be introduced to make sure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing an offender, the Scottish Government said.

If passed by MSPs at Holyrood, the Bill will also ensure child sexual offences committed in England and Wales by Scottish residents can be prosecuted in Scotland and reform the system of civil orders to improve protections for communities from sex offenders.

Mr Matheson said: "I am proud of the bold and unapologetic approach we're taking to tackle these crimes in Scotland and this Bill sends out a strong message that domestic violence will simply not be tolerated.

"These proposals will improve the way the justice system responds to abusive behaviour, holding perpetrators to account for their actions and improving public safety. It will also remove some of the current barriers to justice by improving understanding of domestic abuse and sexual harm, something we know is lacking in the current system.

"In particular, creating a new offence of sharing intimate images without consent, so-called revenge porn, helps to modernise the justice system to tackle the ways people are using new technologies to perpetrate abuse.''

Lord Advocate Frank Muholland said: "I welcome the publication of this Bill, particularly the measures to deal with the sharing of intimate images without consent. This crime is a form of insidious abuse designed to inflict humiliation and suffering on its victims who are predominately women.

"It results in significant distress to victims and in extreme cases has resulted in people taking their own lives.

"I called for a new law to cover this crime because we need to send a strong message to victims not to be embarrassed to come forward and report this offence. I believe it is currently under reported and I hope the new Bill will help reassure those who are affected that law enforcement will treat victims with sensitivity and ensure that those who commit this cowardly crime will face the full force of the law.''

The measures have been welcomed by campaign groups.

Scottish Women's Aid chief executive Dr Marsha Scott said: "We know that the threat or the distribution of so-called revenge porn can be used to humiliate and control the victim. It is a form and tactic of domestic abuse and must be understood in the wider context of gendered abuse.

"We hope that a new offence will give greater clarity to police and prosecutors and make it easier for perpetrators to be held to account for their abusive actions.''

ASSIST and Domestic Abuse Services head of community safety Glasgow Mhairi McGowan said: "A specific offence to tackle the issue of the sharing of intimate images will bring much needed clarity to the law and help reassure victims that they can achieve access to justice.''

 

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