Statement from Dame Vera Baird who spoke at the launch of this report on Monday 1 July
Launch of report
This report is a powerful read. The impact of these crimes on lives is desperate and both the law and police practice need urgent attention to remove material tackle offenders and support victims
It quotes victims whose intimate photographs have been taken in secret or who have been forced to be photographed as part of a controlling domestic relationship and which have then been published on line to the world at large. There are also cases where ‘fake- porn’ has been published where videos or photographs are digitally altered to attach the victims face to pornographic images. Then the same process happens with the same damaging effect though the photographs are a complete fake
The images can be sent to family and friends, to work colleagues and published and republished on pornography sites until the victim will feel that the world has seen and judged her on these images. Someone with such images can exert control by threatening to publish them, a terrifying hold over their victim
In 2015 sharing a private image without consent became a crime but only if it can be proven that it was intended to cause the victim distress. Threats are not a crime, fakeporn is not included and motives such as exerting control, sharing images for sexual gratification, financial gain or to boost the image of the perpetrators sexual prowess are not crimes either. Critically there is no anonymity for a complainant who will be expected to testify about such images with her name known and the risk of sensational personal publicity and its re-traumatising effect. Police have not acted to help the victims in the report. They have few powers and find the process of getting material removed is cumbersome so little is done. Some victims report that they feel blamed by the police
These are all sexual offences. Victims say they are like a hugely public rape, the motives of the perpetrator are irrelevant. What good motive could there be for such behaviour? We need a comprehensive criminal law covering all forms of non consensual taking and or sharing real or fake images and the threat to do so, with complainant anonymity to prevent further trauma and the designation of these as sexual offences so that preventive and consequential orders can be used.
This does not seem complex or difficult but it is urgent, the tales here of women and some men who have suffered this show depression, attempts at suicide, withdrawing from family and friends and a life sentence of fear at where appalling images of themselves will next be seen.