Revenge Porn: Are The New Sentencing Laws Really Enough?

Up until April this year, it’s hard to believe it was actually legal for people to share explicit images or videos without consent – known as Revenge Porn.

The Revenge Porn Helpline has taken more than 1,800 calls relating to 280 individual cases (three-quarters of those calling are women), since February this year when it launched. Only last week, journalist Anna Richardson knowingly shared naked photos of herself online in Channel 4’s documentary ‘Revenge Porn’ – to highlight the horrific abuse victims suffer.

But as the first perpetrators are being sentenced now for the heinous act against women, things have moved forward. Or have they? As just three of the nine perpetrators sentenced so far have actually been sent to prison, there is a growing concern that the courts are not treating the law seriously enough. Today, the first woman to be sentenced for revenge porn, 24-year old Paige Mitchell, has walked free. After Paige posted naked photos of her girlfriend on her own Facebook page, she was handed a six-week sentence for revenge porn. But her sentence has now been suspended for eighteen months.

Folami Prehaye, who was a victim of revenge porn last year and afterwards set up her own organization ‘Victims of Internet Crime (VOIC.org.uk)’ afterwards, to provide emotional support to other victims says she’s worried that so few judges are using the full prison sentencing available (revenge porn in the UK carries a two year jail time).

“I think giving people suspended sentences is just a slap on the wrist,” Folami says. “Since April, they’ve only put three people in prison. That’s not harsh enough, but it’s also not sending the right message to the victims that this will be taken seriously.

And Laura Higgins of the Revenge Porn Helpline shares a similar worry surrounding lenient sentences. “We’ve got mixed emotions [about the law] because the bulk have only got community sentences, fines or suspended sentences,” she says. “The police response was very poor to begin with. I understand the pressures, but from a victim point of view, most of the time they were telling them it’s not that serious compared to what else we deal with. But that seems to be changing.”

The new revenge porn law is there to protect the victims – but if they are not being respected what message does this send out to people? That you carry on sharing pictures and slip through the net of the law.

Regardless of whether you have let someone take a compromising photo of you, in a relationship or otherwise, does not grant anyone access to share them with anyone else. Fact.

By Emma Firth