Law Commission to review the law around the non-consensual taking, making and sharing of sexual images

The Government has announced that laws around the making and sharing of non-consensual intimate images are to be reviewed under plans to ensure protections keep pace with emerging technology.

The Government has asked the Law Commission to examine whether current legislation is fit to tackle new and evolving types of abusive and offensive communications, including image-based abuse, amid concerns it has become easier to create and distribute sexual images of people online without their permission.

The review, which will be launched shortly, will consider a range of disturbing digital trends such as “cyber-flashing” (when people receive unsolicited sexual images of someone over the phone) and “deepfake” pornography (the degrading practice of superimposing an individual’s face onto pornographic photos or videos without consent).

The review will also consider the case for granting automatic anonymity to revenge porn victims, so they cannot be named publicly, as is the case for victims of sexual offences.

The Government says that in many cases this behaviour will already be caught by a number of existing offences, such as “voyeurism” under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Alongside the review, the Law Commission will launch a public consultation next year on strengthening the law.

The review is part of the second phase of the Law Commission’s Abusive and Offensive Online Communications Project, which follows its Scoping Report on Abusive and Offensive Online Communications, which was published in November 2018. This second phase will also cover reform of the communications offences (s 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and s 127 of the Communications Act 2003) to ensure that they are clear and understandable and provide greater certainty to online users and law enforcement agencies. The Law Commission will also consider the glorification of violent crime online and the encouragement of self-harm online. Finally, the review will also consider whether co-ordinated harassment by groups of people online could be more effectively addressed by the criminal law. To read the Government’s announcement in full, click here. To read the Law Commission’s press releases, click here and here.