The issue of so called ‘revenge porn’ has grown to be a major issue in the last few years. Before my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the last parliament succeeded in securing a change in the law that criminalised it, victims had no recourse to justice. Some of the worst cases involved women having to send photos of their naked bodies to the websites hosting their private photos to prove that they were in fact the same person and the photos should be taken down.
No one should underestimate the impact this has had. It has ruined lives - destroying self-confidence, wrecking careers and worse. In some cases it has even resulted in suicide.
A year after the change in the law the number of convictions remains absurdly low. Thousands of women continue to suffer in silence. Unlike rape victims and other sexual offences no anonymity is offered to victims of revenge porn. In fact, the only option for revenge porn victims is to apply for anonymity under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, further complicating proceedings. How many women have approached the police hoping to make a complaint and to take their abuser to court but then stopped for fear of drawing further attention to a crime which has already, by its very nature, robbed them of their dignity and eroded their privacy?
That is why I have also tabled amendments to the Police and Justice Bill currently before Parliament to add another tool to the penalties available to judges, to give them the right to award compensation to the victim. If nothing else it all helps to send a message to our criminal justice system that we the public expect this crime to be treated seriously. Only then can we expect to deter others from behaving in this way.
As ever, legislation alone will not be enough. We need better education, better training for our police, prosecutors and judiciary. In some areas not one single person has been convicted of this offence since the law was changed. Of course I would like to believe that is because no offences have been committed but the evidence suggests otherwise.
I have launched a petition calling on the government to offer anonymity to victims of revenge porn. You can sign the petition here.
My amendments were discussed in Sunday's Observer Newspaper you can read the article here.