Sharing images without consent

Consequences of distributing personal pictures or film.

A NEW law will make it easier to prosecute people who share intimate images without consent.

From today (Monday), those convicted of the new offence of ‘disclosing, or threatening to disclose, an intimate photograph or film’ could face up to five years imprisonment under the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016.

A hard-hitting public awareness campaign will drive home the serious consequences of sharing intimate images or films of a current or former partner without their permission.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“Modern technology gives us the potential to link up or keep in touch with friends and loved ones around the world and opens up incredible opportunities, but the scale of its reach means that when it is abused to intimidate, harass or expose someone in this way, the impact can be hugely damaging.

“There is no place for this abusive and manipulative behaviour in Scotland, and the threat of sharing images without consent will be viewed just as seriously as the act of sharing. The maximum penalty of up to five years reflects the serious nature of this crime and anyone who shares or threatens to share an intimate image without consent will feel the full force of the law.”

The campaign has been developed in partnership with Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Police Scotland and the Crown Office, all of whom are involved in dealing with the crime and its consequences.

Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “So called ‘revenge porn’ is not about revenge, and it’s not about porn. It’s about power, control and humiliation. Sharing, or threatening to share intimate pictures or videos of someone without their consent causes devastating harm to victims and it is absolutely right that the law should reflect this.

“Our research on this showed that most victims of this crime suffered long term anxiety, and some mentioned feelings of self-harm and suicide because their intimate images were shared without their consent. The fear and anxiety it creates can creep into every corner of a victim’s life and relationships. It’s absolutely unacceptable and it is never the victim’s fault. Support will always be available for anyone affected through Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234.”

New research shows over three quarters (78%) of Scottish adults believe it should be illegal for someone to share an intimate image they’ve been sent. This rises to 82% of people in agreement that it should be illegal for someone to share an intimate image they’ve taken of their partner.

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The offence covers:

  • photographs or films showing people engaged in a sexual activity which would not usually be done in public, or with their genitals, buttocks or breasts exposed or covered only with underwear
  • doesn’t cover the sharing of other materials such as private text messages and emails which are dealt with under separate legislation
  • doesn’t apply to sharing photographs of naked protests or streakers at sports matches

A film from the campaign is now available online.


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