Sharing pornographic “downblouse” and “deepfakes” without consent should be considered a crime, according to recommendations to bring laws on abuse of intimate images into the smartphone age.
The Law Commission said a “patchwork” of crimes has not kept pace with technology and is failing to protect all victims as perpetrators elude justice.
It is proposing the creation of a base crime, with a maximum penalty of six months in prison, covering all acts of intentionally taking or sharing a sexual, nude or intimate photo or video without consent.
This would apply regardless of the perpetrator’s motivation, as the act is “sufficiently illicit and harmful to warrant criminalization.”
The Revenge Porn helpline previously told the PA news outlet that the existing law is leaving “thousands of people unsupported and unvalidated” because they need to show that material was shared with the intent to cause distress.
The Law Commission proposes other crimes – where the image was taken or shared for sexual gratification, to cause humiliation, alarm or distress, or when the perpetrator threatened the victim – with harsher prison sentences of two to three years.
This “graded” approach is not intended to reflect harm done to the victim, but the higher level of guilt when the perpetrator acts with a specific intent, the agency said.
Installing equipment, such as a hidden camera on Airbnb properties or bathrooms, to take a photograph or film someone without their consent would also be criminalized, with maximum penalties under the rated proposals.
The new offenses would apply to victims and perpetrators of all ages and would encompass nude, partially nude images of a sexual act or going to the bathroom.
This includes images taken from a woman’s top known as downblousing, pornographic deepfakes and images in which someone’s clothes have been digitally removed making them appear nude, as well as existing crimes such as upskirting and voyeurism.
But it would exclude cases where the circumstances and nature of the conduct are “not morally wrong or harmful,” such as a proud family member sharing a nude or partially nude photo of a newborn baby on social media.
All victims of the new crimes would be eligible for lifetime anonymity and special measures in the event of a trial, such as being able to testify behind a screen or pre-record their evidence.
The recommendations follow the Law Commission’s government-commissioned review of the intimate image abuse laws.
Professor Penney Lewis, Commissioner of Criminal Law, said: “Current laws about taking or sharing sexual or nude images of someone without their consent are inconsistent, based on a narrow set of motivations, and do not go far enough to cover disturbing news. and abusive. behaviors born in the smartphone age.
“Our new government reforms will expand the scope of criminal law to ensure that no perpetrator of these deeply harmful acts can escape prosecution and that victims receive effective protection.”
Emily Hunt, an activist and independent adviser to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), said the reforms around anonymity are “vital” as they will ensure greater protection for victims and encourage more people to come forward and report offenses.
A government spokesperson said: “Nearly 1,000 abusers have been convicted since we banned ‘revenge porn.’
“With the Online Safety Bill, we will force internet companies to better protect people from a range of image-based abuses – including deepfakes.
“But we asked the Commission to explore whether the law could be strengthened to keep the public safer.
“We will carefully consider your recommendations and respond in due course.”