Online Safety Bill and Image-Based Sexual Abuse
The Online Safety Bill returns to Parliament today, 5 December 2022.
It is currently in report stage, and has been delayed on multiple occasions, due to the numerous changes in Government leadership in the past year.
It was recently announced by the Government that much more significant changes to the current legislation which criminalises image-based sexual abuse (or ‘revenge porn’), will now be proposed.
This includes that it will no longer be required for the prosecution to prove that the alleged perpetrator intended to cause distress.
This is absolutely huge for victims of these crimes, and will make a definite difference to the number of successful prosecutions.
Perpetrators will no longer be able to claim that it was a ‘joke’, to cruelly use the photos for their own dating profiles, for the purpose of sexual gratification, or to tell the police that they ‘didn’t mean it’.
I believe this change is very likely to increase significantly the number of convictions for these offences.
There will be a further offence, which includes more serious penalties for those perpetrators who have commit the offence with the intent to cause humiliation, alarm or distress, or for sexual gratification.
In addition, victims of these crimes will also receive the same anonymity, which victims of other sexual offences already receive. Again, this should mean that victims feel more able to report incidents of their images being shared, knowing that their name cannot be published, and adding a layer of protection to them disclosing what has happened.
Finally, it will become an offence to share deepfakes; photos and videos which have been manipulated to look like the victim, without their consent.
These changes really feel like the Government is finally catching up with the key issues of image-based sexual abuse, and the experiences and circumstances victims of these offences face.
I hope that Parliament agrees, and these amendments to the Bill are passed as quickly as possible; victims are continuing to face an uphill battle to obtain justice until then.