Sharing “downblouse” images and pornographic “deepfakes” without consent will be made crimes under new legislation.
The government has confirmed that an amendment to the Online Safety Bill would see police and prosecutors awarded with more powers to bring perpetrators to justice.
Under the new proposals, individuals who share “deepfakes” – explicit images or videos which have been manipulated to look like someone without that person’s consent – could be jailed.
The Ministry of Justice is also set to bring forward laws to tackle the installation of equipment including hidden cameras to take or record images of someone without their consent.
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This will include “downblousing” which is where photos are taken down an individual’s top.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the amendment will allow prosecutors to “come down like a tonne of bricks on those who abuse or intimidate” women and girls.
“Our message is very clear – we want girls, women, to have full confidence in the law and we want those who abuse and harass and intimidate them to feel the full force of the law,” he told broadcasters.
Shielding women and children from ‘vile abuse’
In a statement, the deputy PM added: “We must do more to protect women and girls, from people who take or manipulate intimate photos in order to hound or humiliate them.
“Our changes will give police and prosecutors the powers they need to bring these cowards to justice and safeguard women and girls from such vile abuse.”
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan added: “With these latest additions to the bill, our laws will go even further to shield women and children, who are disproportionately affected, from this horrendous abuse once and for all.”
Figures show around one in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced a threat to share intimate images.
More than 28,000 reports of disclosing private sexual images without consent were recorded by police between April 2015 and December 2021.
Perpetrators will no longer evade justice
The Law Commission had called for the changes, saying criminal offenses had not kept pace with technology and failed to protect all victims, while perpetrators evaded justice.
Professor Penney Lewis, of the Law Commission, said: “Taking or sharing intimate images of a person without their consent can inflict lasting damage.
“We are pleased that the government will take forward our recommendations to strengthen the law.
“A new set of offenses will capture a wider range of abusive behaviours, ensuring that more perpetrators of these deeply harmful acts face prosecution.”
Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs added: “I welcome these moves by the government which aim to make victims and survivors safer online, on the streets and in their own homes.”