Police admit officers don't know enough about revenge porn to help victims sufficiently

Sophie Gallagher
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Derbyshire Constabulary has apologised to a victim of revenge porn for the failure to bring a case, saying knowledge of the crime needs to be better taught to officers.

Catherine, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, 24, brought evidence to the attention of the police force in August 2018 when she found her ex-boyfriend had recorded videos of them having sex without her consent and then distributed them online.

Revenge porn – the distribution of private sexual images or videos without the subject’s consent and with the intention of causing them distress – has been an offence in England and Wales since 2015 and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

But a spokesperson from the Derbyshire force told The Independent in this case it had failed to reach “the high standards that we would expect, and for that we apologise”.

It confirmed a review is now taking place regarding the processes of bringing a revenge porn case and the information and training provided to officers on the ground.

“While it is heartening to hear that this victim was treated with dignity and care by officers the knowledge of the specific legislation appears to need to be increased,” it said.

“Derbyshire Constabulary takes the offence of revenge porn seriously and at the heart of our response is the victim.”

In a bid to increase awareness of image-based sexual abuse for officers, the force is now working with grassroots campaign #NotYourPorn, founded by Kate Isaacs, after her friend was a victim of revenge porn.

Isaacs says: “Derbyshire police taking accountability for their failings is so refreshing, and we look forward to working with them to bridge the gap between victims and law enforcement – as well as growing their understanding on how to tackle image-based sexual abuse which has been uploaded to porn websites.

“It is going to be a great platform for victims to tell their stories on how the police dealt with revenge porn cases across the country.”

Adam Wilkins, Detective Inspector in Digital investigations at Derbyshire Police says: “We’ll be using the work we do with the #NotYourPorn campaign as an opportunity to address issues locally, but we’re hoping we can spread learning and knowledge on a national level.”

Currently the UK’s sole specialist support for victims is the Revenge Porn helpline, which has a staff of only three (one of whom is full time). It takes calls from victims in extreme distress.

In 2016/17, there were 465 prosecutions over revenge porn allegations in England and Wales. It is estimated the figures for 2017-2018 will have increased.

But figures from the Ministry of Justice found one in three allegations are withdrawn by the complainant, citing a lack of police support and the absence of anonymity.

Victims are not given anonymity because revenge porn is considered a communications offence, not a sexual one.

The Law Commission is currently reviewing whether this should be changed.

Have you had your intimate images shared online without your consent? Ring the UK's Revenge Porn Helpline on 0345 6000 459. The helpline is open from 10:00 to 16:00 Monday to Friday​.