First female prosecuted under new law for posting person’s intimate images on Facebook

As we have discussed in previous blog posts, with the increased use of technology there is a growing problem of the malicious use of intimate images in Family Law proceedings. Under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015(introduced in April 2015) it a criminal offence to disclose private sexual photographs and films without the consent of the individual who appears in them and with the intent to cause that individual stress.

Paige Mitchell pleaded guilty to disclosing private sexual photographs with the intent of causing distress to her girlfriend and is believed to be the first female to be prosecuted for revenge pornography under new legislation. The court was told that Ms Mitchell posted four sexually explicit images of her girlfriend on her own Facebook page after her girlfriend accused her of ‘looking at other women’. Ms Mitchell pleaded guilty to one count of assault by beating and one of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress. Ms Mitchell has been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment suspended for 18 months, rehabilitation activity requirement for 50 days and ordered to pay costs.

The CPS Guidance on ‘revenge porn’ outlines the following:

• Revenge Porn is the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.
• The offence applies both online and offline and to images which are shared electronically or in a more traditional way so includes the uploading of images on the internet, sharing by text and e-mail, or showing someone a physical or electronic image.
• The issue in cases of ‘revenge pornography’ will be whether the message or communication is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false, not whether the image itself is indecent or obscene.
• Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 deals with the sending of electronic communications which are indecent, grossly offensive, threatening or false, provided there is an intention to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient.
• Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send or cause to be sent through a ‘public electronic communications network’ a message that is ‘grossly offensive’ or of an ‘indecent, obscene or menacing character’.
• Where there is more than one incident, or the incident forms part of a course of conduct directed towards an individual, a charge of harassment should be considered.
• In the most serious cases, where intimate images are used to coerce victims into further sexual activity, other offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will be considered.

If you are experiencing abuse following your separation or fear that your former partner is acting in a vengeful manner, you can talk to us in complete confidence about the legal steps you can take to bring your abuser to justice and to legally end your relationship. Our Family Law specialists will handle your case with sensitivity and provide the proper advice and guidance you need. Please contact us for a free 20 minute consultation on 0161 927 3118.