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Taking legal action and seeking the removal of intimate photographs/videos


'Revenge Porn' is a colloquial term used to describe the unauthorised sharing of intimate private photographs or videos. It is so-called because it is often carried out by spurned or jealous lovers publishing the material on the Internet, thereby turning their victim (usually, but not exclusively, female) into an unwitting 'porn star'.  There can be no justification for the act, which may be carried out by people other than former partners, and by a wide variety of different mediums including email, text and instant message services such as WhatsApp and SnapChat, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and traditional 'offline' dissemination.   Additionally, a number of illicit websites set up to facilitate such behaviour - such as MyEx.com - have gained notoriety.

In today's world, where camera phones are omnipresent and two thirds of phones have instant access to the internet, spur of the moment decisions can have devastating consequences. Victims often feel helpless, but there are things that can be done.

What to do if you are a victim


If you find yourself a victim of 'revenge porn' you should: -

1) Keep calm. It is important that you know that there are things you can do and that you remember that the feeling of panic you have will pass. Try to stay calm because your initial reaction may prove important.

2) Consider whether you should inform the Police.  An act of 'revenge porn' may constitute a number of criminal offences (see more below) and, as with any potential crime, you should consider informing the Police at an early stage. If you are a parent and your child is below the age of 16, you should give consideration to contacting the Police immediately, as a very serious criminal offence may have been committed. In doing so, remember that the situation is likely to be highly traumatic for your child and may have a significant bearing on their future. Do not jump to any conclusions. Stay calm and measured, for their sake. If you are a child and you find yourself in this situation, tell your parents or a responsible adult whom you trust, such as a teacher.

3) Consider carefully whether it is prudent to contact the person responsible.  While it may be tempting to contact the person responsible, either in a furious rage, or to plead with them to remove the material, this is often ill-advised, especially in the immediate term. Someone who has breached your trust and privacy in this manner has already taken the 'nuclear option' – and may be difficult to reason with. They are often people who feel bitter or rejected, and are looking for a reaction – do not give them the satisfaction. This may lead them to think that their tactics work. Furhermore, by contacting them before you have approached the Police and/or sought specialist legal advice, you may be prejudicing a future prosecution or civil claim against them. Even if they are remorseful and regret their decision, it may not be within their power to get the material removed, depending on where they have published it. There will of course be some circumstances where it makes sense to contact the individual in question. For instance, where a friend posts an intimate photograph on a social networking website in an ill-judged prank.

4) Resist the temptation to tell everyone.  It may sound counterintuitive, but there are various reasons why you may feel tempted to tell lots of people about your predicament. It may be that you want to shame the person responsible, it may be that you want to try and find out who is responsible, or it may just be that it feels cathartic to share the distress you are feeling. Try to resist this. You may regret telling people later on and/or undermine any potential civil claim. Confide in one or two people you know and trust implicitly and make sure that they understand the importance of keeping the matter confidential.

5) Call us now for specialist advice – 020 7183 8950.  Tell our switchboard that you have a new enquiry for our defamation, privacy and online harassment team.


The law


Criminal law

Under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 it is a criminal offence to 'disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made (a) without the consent of the individual who appears, and (b) with the intention of causing that individual distress'. 'Private' is defined in this context as of a kind that is not ordinarily seen by the public, whilst 'sexual' includes not only exposure of the genitals, but anything that a reasonable person would consider to be sexual because of its nature or context. In other words, the person need not be engaged in a sexual activity, they might simply be in a state of full or partial undress. Equally, they might be engaged in a sexual activity without themselves being exposed at all. 'Photograph or film' includes images that have been doctored. Examples of the kinds of alterations that perpetrators sometimes make are adding supposedly humorous features, distorting body parts, and making it look as though a person is engaged in pornography. However, the image will not be sexual if it is only rendered such by virtue of the alteration). Those convicted could face a sentence of up to two years imprisonment.

casestudy2.pngRead more here on the offence of disclosing private sexual photographs without consent

In addition to this new law aimed specifically at 'revenge porn', a number of other criminal offences may be committed by those engaging in the same, or similar, behaviour.  These include:-

-Sending a communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety (contrary to the Malicious Communications Act 1988)

-Harassment (contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997)

-Stalking (contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012)

-Unauthorised computer access (contrary to the Computer Misuse Act 1990)

-Blackmail (contrary to the Theft Act 1968)

People who believe they have been a victim of crime can report the matter to the Police, who have a duty to investigate any credible allegation. Once the Police have carried out an investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service will decide whether anyone should be prosecuted. It is theoretically possible for victims of crime to bring prosecutions privately, although in practice this is very rare.

Civil remedies

An act of 'Revenge Porn' will normally give rise to a claim for the misuse of private information and breach of confidence.  Depending on the circumstances, victims may also be able to bring claims for harassment and/or copyright infringement.

In addition to reporting the suspected culprit(s) to the Police, there are several actions that victims can take directly by instructing solicitors.  These include:-

-Obtaining removal of the material, undertakings not to republish, apologies, damages (compensation), and costs from the people responsible by means of:- 

-Pre-action correspondence

-Issuing proceedings for the misuse of private information/breach of confidence

-Interim and post-judgment Injunctions

-Success at trial

-Persuading Web hosts, blog hosts and social media platforms to remove the material. We have had success in seeking the removal of photographs from notorious revenge porn websites that claim not to remove photographs in any circumstances.

-Persuading top-level Internet service providers and search engines to remove and/or block links to offending material/sites.

-Making representations to the Police and/or Crown Prosecution Service to investigate and/or prosecute those responsible where there is a prima facie case that a criminal offence has been committed

Contact Us


We offer fixed-fee preliminary consultations.  A consultation will help you understand the legal and practical issues relating to your case and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take.

To arrange a consultation with one of our defamation lawyers, or to find out how we can support you, please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 7183 8950. We have varied experience of revenge porn claims and can help you to resolve this tricky issue. Please send us an emailcomplete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 7183 8950.