A new criminal offence has been created, making it illegal to threaten to share intimate images of someone else. To be guilty of this offence, there simply has to be a threat. It does not matter whether such an image exists, or whether you go on to share the image.
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Threats to share intimate images
As of 29 June 2021, the offence of ‘threats to share intimate images’ has been included under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. This makes it illegal to threaten to disclose a private sexual photograph or film in which another person appears, with the intention of causing distress to that individual.
Note that this offence specifically covers the threat to disclose images. It is already an offence to disclose sexual images without the individual’s consent. It does not matter whether the images actually exist or not. Simply threatening to share sexual images can land you in trouble with the law, regardless of whether they exist or whether you act on this threat.
Why the legal changes?
The new law has long been advocated for by campaign groups, which argue that a threat to post an image can be just as distressing as if the image had been posted. The Revenge Porn Helpline estimates that over 20% of their calls involved a threat to share an intimate image. It said the threat can be a tactic used in relationships to coerce and maintain control.
Could there be further legal changes?
The Law Commission is currently conducting a review of the taking, making and sharing of intimate images without consent. Their recommendations are being prepared and their final report is expected in Spring 2022. This means further legal changes could be implemented in the not–too–distant future.
The Law Commission decided a review was necessary, as there are concerns that there is no single offence that governs the making, taking and sharing of intimate images without consent. Instead, there is a “patchwork of offences” which have developed over time. This means there are gaps in the law, such as:
- No offence for ‘downblousing’
- No offence for sharing an altered image
- No offence for sharing sexual images as a joke or as a means of coercion
If you have been arrested for sharing sexual images – or threatening to share sexual images – contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We can represent you throughout proceedings, working to get the best possible outcome on your behalf.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.