New laws to better protect victims from abuse of intimate images – GOV.UK | Episode Movies

  • new criminal offenses to be created in combating abusers who share intimate images without consent
  • nhanges will strengthen the law and deliver on the PM’s promise to ban downblousing
  • Comprehensive package of measures to modernize legislation after review by the Legal Commission

Under a proposed change to online safety law, people who share so-called “deepfakes” — explicit images or videos manipulated to look like someone without their consent — will be specifically criminalized for the first time, and face potential time behind bars.

The government will also introduce a package of additional laws to crack down on a range of abusive behaviors, including installing devices such as hidden cameras to capture or record images of someone without their consent.

These cover what is known as “downblousing” – photos of a woman’s top being lowered without consent – allowing police and prosecutors to prosecute such cases more effectively.

This follows Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to criminalize the practice, in line with previous measures this government has taken to ban upskirting.

Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said:

We must do more to protect women and girls from people who take or manipulate intimate photos in order to stalk or humiliate them.

Our changes will give police and prosecutors the powers they need to bring these cowards to justice and protect women and girls from such heinous abuse.

Today’s announcement builds on Dame Maria Miller MP’s campaign and recommendations from the Law Commission to introduce reforms to image misuse laws.

The amendment to the Online Safety Act will broaden the scope of current crimes involving intimate images, allowing more offenders to be prosecuted and potentially face jail time.

Domestic Violence Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said:

I applaud these government steps aimed at making victims and survivors safer online, on the streets and in their own homes.

I am pleased to see this commitment in the Online Safety Bill and hope that it will continue its way through Parliament as soon as possible.

Around 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced a threat to share intimate images, with more than 28,000 reports of the disclosure of private sexual images without consent being recorded by police between April 2015 and December 2021.

The reform package follows growing global concerns about the misuse of new technologies, including the proliferation of deepfakes. These usually involve the use of editing software to create and share fake images or videos of an individual, often pornographic in nature, without their consent. A website that virtually strips women naked received 38 million hits in the first 8 months of 2021.

The government will implement several of the Justice Commission’s recommendations to ensure legislation keeps pace with technology and is effective in tackling new forms of abuse. This contains:

  • Repeal and replace existing legislation with new criminal offenses to simplify the law and make prosecution easier. This includes a new base offense of sharing an intimate image without consent and two more serious offenses based on intent to cause humiliation, alarm or distress and to obtain sexual gratification.
  • Creation of 2 specific offenses for threatening the sharing and installation of devices to enable the taking of images.
  • Criminalizing the non-consensual sharing of manufactured intimate images (better known as deepfakes).

The move builds on government actions in recent years to better protect victims and bring more offenders to justice, including making “upskirting” and “feeding voyeurism” specific offenses, expanding “revenge porn” laws to include Threats to share such images and their use capture the Online Safety Act to create a criminal offense specifically targeting “cyberflashing”.

Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge said:

Refuge welcomes these reforms and welcomes advances in addressing technology abuse. As the only frontline service with a dedicated technical abuse team, Refuge is uniquely positioned to support survivors experiencing this form of abuse.

We have successfully advocated the threat of sharing intimate images with intent to cause a crime via the Domestic Abuse Act and these reforms will continue to ensure police and law enforcement agencies have the right to investigate and prosecute these serious crimes.

Tech abuse can take many forms, and Refuge hopes these changes will signal the start of a much broader discussion about the need for increased response to online abuse and harm.

DCMS Secretary of State Michelle Donelan said:

Through the Online Safety Bill, I am making sure tech companies must stop illegal content and protect children on their platforms, but we will also improve criminal laws to prevent horrific crimes like cyber flashing.

With these latest additions to the bill, our laws will go even further to protect women and children who are disproportionately affected from this appalling abuse once and for all.

The Government will present the broader package of amendments as soon as Parliamentary time permits and will provide further details in due course.

Notes for editors

  • The law recognizes that the abuse of intimate images is harmful and wrong, and these reforms will build on government action to address the ever-evolving nature of these issues in the digital age. This government has taken steps to update offenses dealing with “revenge pornography” and voyeurism, which are used along with other offenses such as harassment, malicious communication, extortion and “coerced or controlling conduct” to combat intimate image abuse.
  • The Justice Commission’s detailed review included a three-month public consultation ending May 27, 2021, which received 354 written responses from members of the public, professionals and organizations including legal professionals, the judiciary, parliamentarians, police, academics, medical professionals and other victim support groups. The final report can be found here.
  • We have already taken significant measures to protect and assist victims:
    • Increase funding for victim support services to £460m over next three years. We are using additional earmarked funds to increase the number of independent sexual and domestic violence counselors by 300 to over 1,000 by 2024-25 – a 43 percent increase over the next three years.
    • Working with Rape Crisis England & Wales to develop and provide a 24/7 rape and sexual abuse hotline;
    • Released the Data Dashboard on All Kinds of Rape and Adult Rape to increase transparency on how police and prosecutors deal with rape and sexual violence;
    • The deadline for victims of domestic violence to seek justice has been extended and steps have been taken to protect women from harassment when breastfeeding in a public place.
    • Pre-recorded cross-examination and re-examination of vulnerable witnesses introduced in every Crown Court in England and Wales. The measures make the experience of testifying in court less daunting and help witnesses and victims make their best statements.
    • Launched new pilots at three Crown Courts to provide improved support to rape victims and help advance prosecutions and convictions. This includes special trauma training for staff and new video technology to take advantage of the rapid introduction of recorded cross-examination for rape victims.
  • Last month we launched the ENOUGH campaign to end violence against women and girls. The campaign gives viewers safe ways to intervene when they witness violence against women and girls, including street harassment, unwanted touching, sharing intimate pictures of someone without their consent, and forced control in a relationship.
  • As part of the Government’s strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, the Home Office increased its funding for the Revenge Porn Helpline to £120,000 in 2021/2 to support victims of non-consensual sharing of intimate images. As part of the plan to tackle domestic abuse, the Home Office further increased this to £150,000 in 2022/3. Since the helpline was launched in 2015, it has assisted nearly 16,000 people and removed over 270,000 individual pieces of content.

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