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Victims of intimate image abuse would have greater protection under Law Commission reforms

New recommendations to strengthen the law to protect victims of intimate image abuse have been proposed by the Law Commission of England and Wales.

The government asked the Commission to undertake a thorough review of the laws around intimate image abuse, following calls for them to go further to capture a wider range of harmful behaviours.

Following the review, the Law Commission has made proposals for law reforms which would make it easier to prosecute those who take or share sexual, nude or other intimate images of people without their consent.

Professor Penney Lewis, the Law Commissioner for Criminal Law, said: “Sharing intimate images of a person without their consent can be incredibly distressing and harmful for victims, with the experience often scarring them for life.

“Current laws on 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 and abusive new behaviours born in the smartphone era.

“Our new reforms for government will broaden the scope of the criminal law to ensure that no perpetrators of these deeply damaging acts can evade prosecution, and that victims are given effective protection,” she added.

The proposed reforms would put in place a clearer legal framework, broadening the scope of intimate image offences, so that all instances of intentionally taking or sharing intimate images without consent are criminalised, regardless of motivation.

The law would be updated to cover more modern forms of abuse that are currently not offences such as the abusive act of “down-blousing”, as well as the sharing of altered intimate images of people without their consent.

As well as extending and simplifying the law, under the reforms, all victims of abuse would receive lifetime anonymity. Widening these important protections would help empower victims to report and support prosecutions.

Emily Hunt, campaigner, advocate for victims of sexual offences and independent adviser to the Ministry of Justice, said: “The Law Commission’s reforms on anonymity are a vital step for securing greater protection for victims of intimate image abuse and would encourage more people to come forward to report offences.

“Taking or sharing sexual or nude images of someone without their consent can disrupt lives and inflict lasting damage. A change in the law is long overdue, and it’s right that under these proposals, all perpetrators of these acts would face prosecution,” she added.

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