MSPs Back Plans To Outlaw Revenge Porn

21 January 2016, 08:08

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MSPs have backed plans for a new offence to address the "enormously hurtful and humiliating'' impact of so-called revenge porn.

Holyrood's Justice Committee has supported the general principles of the Scottish Government's Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill, which aims to improve how the justice system responds to abuse, harassment and sexual harm.

The Bill will create an offence of sharing private intimate images without consent, with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

MSPs received evidence of the "devastating'' effect such behaviour could have on people's lives.

"The behaviour the offence would address can be enormously hurtful and humiliating, and treating it as criminal is not disproportionate,'' the committee said in its Stage 1 Report on the Bill.

"The drafting of a new law provides an opportunity to set out the parameters of the offending behaviour with greater clarity and consistency.

"It also sends a clear message about the unacceptability of conduct that modern technology has rendered disturbingly easy to undertake, and may therefore have a deterrent effect.''

The Bill also includes a requirement for judges to give juries specific directions when dealing with sexual offence cases that are designed to improve juries' understanding of sexual violence and domestic abuse, specifically why a victim might not report or resist an offence at the time it was committed.

A majority of MSPs on the committee backed the proposal, with some calling for more research on use of the directions by juries.

The report said: "A clear majority of the committee supports their introduction on the ground that they would appear to do no more than ensure that judges provide relevant factual information to juries to inform their deliberations and, in so doing, help ensure that these directions are delivered more consistently than is currently the case.''

The legislation will introduce a new statutory domestic abuse aggravator to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing an offender.

It will also extend the circumstances where courts may grant non-harassment orders against individuals.

Committee convener Christine Grahame MSP said: "Everyone agrees that we need strong, tough laws to deal with abuse and sexual harm. New laws should also be flexible enough to respond to new developments and changed circumstances.

"The committee is unanimously agreed on the need to take effective steps to tackle abusive behaviour. We are therefore content to accept the broad principles of the Government's proposed legislation.

"The committee also agreed that there was a strong case for a new offence of non-consensually sharing intimate images, although we have asked the Government to look again at some of the details of the offence.

"We hope that the Scottish Government considers our report carefully and brings forward recommendations at Stage 2 which address our concerns and reflect our recommendations.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We welcome this report by the Justice Committee, and would like to thank the committee for their work.

"We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report, and look forward to the Bill coming before Parliament.''

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