Dame Vera Baird urges the Commission to consult widely with the VAWG sector on the creation of any new offences.

The Law Commission in September 2020 published proposals to better protect victims from harmful behaviour, including abusive messages or emails, cyberflashing, and pile-on harassment. Reforms to tackle the malicious sharing of information known to be false were also proposed.

In her response to the Law Commission’s consultation paper, Dame Vera Baird urges the Commission to consult widely with the violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector and academics on the creation of any new offences.

Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, said:

“Online communication has been a lifeline for many in recent months, but it should not be a refuge for abusive, harmful or criminal behaviour. As Victims’ Commissioner, I am deeply concerned about the use of electronic media and social media to commit harassment, make threats to kill or rape and other troubling offences. I am pleased that the Law Commission is revisiting existing communications offences and considering further offences.

I agree there should be a new offence of cyber-flashing, but it is vital we get the law right first time. We need a law on cyber-flashing that covers all non-consensual sending of penis images. I also agree with the idea of creating new offence of pile-on harassment. Criminalising this behaviour will play an important role in sending a message of the unacceptability of this type of behaviour.

I urge the Law Commission to consult widely with the VAWG sector on the creation of any new offences to ensure these adequately cover the behaviour concerned and do not have inadvertent unintended consequences. More broadly, image-based abuse such as up-skirting, revenge porn and cyber-flashing are all undoubtedly linked and require a joined-up approach. I hope the Law Commission will consider reform around image-based abuse more broadly and consolidate all ‘digital’ sexual offences that are currently poorly dealt with in law.”

See the full consultation response.