“Is revenge porn already illegal in England?”

This is what happened to Hazel Higgleton in July 2013, after she split up with her boyfriend.

“I’m sure he put the video on every porn site he could possibly put it on, and then it just went viral and spread everywhere,” said Hazel, 25.

“I thought it was something that happens to celebrities. I didn’t think it would be an issue for people like me.”

Miss Higgleton, from Chelmsford in Essex, said the police were very sympathetic when she reported what she believed was a crime.

However, like many victims of revenge porn, she was told no legal action could be taken.

“They were so nice about it but they were upset themselves that they couldn’t do anything about it,” said Miss Higgleton.

“They thought it was terrible that nothing could be done about it, and they believed something had to be changed because they thought it was a very bad thing.”

Revenge porn is now being made a specific offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill and the government expects this to become law at some point in 2015, subject to the Parliamentary process.

However, revenge porn can already be prosecuted under several existing laws.

Luke King, from Nottingham, was jailed for harassment in November, after sharing an explicit photo of his former girlfriend using the messaging service WhatsApp.

It was thought to be one of the first revenge porn prosecutions.

Janine Smith, deputy chief crown prosecutor for the East Midlands, hopes it will encourage other victims to report incidents to police.

“Victims don’t necessarily understand it’s a criminal offence and so this is why it’s really good the case has been highlighted,” she said.

“Obviously it’s traumatic and terrible for the victim but it will say to tomorrow’s suspect or tomorrow’s victim that we take these cases really seriously.”

So why was Luke King prosecuted, while police told Hazel Higgleton that no action could be taken against her ex?

Essex Police was asked to comment but said it was unable to find a record of the incident.

Ms Smith said it would not be fair for her to comment on the police but said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) “can certainly make sure that we raise awareness within the police”.

“We could just highlight our guidance to them, so they are completely aware of our position,” she said.

The CPS updated its legal guidance in October to explain how revenge porn cases could be prosecuted.

The law has not changed but the guidance has clarified the different legislation under which a perpetrator could be charged.

(full article here)

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