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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Refuge finds charging rates low for intimate image abuse

Refuge finds charging rates low for intimate image abuse


Data published from Freedom of Information requests

UK Domestic abuse charity Refuge released data at the end of January, which reveals that charging rates for intimate image offences, or so-called revenge porn, remain low despite an increase in the number of offences being recorded by police forces. The charity’s analysis of the data explains that in just 4 per cent of all the cases recorded by the police forces that responded to a request for data, was the alleged offender charged or summonsed.

The data cited by the charity, which was gathered through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to police forces in England and Wales in July 2022, shows that across the 24 police forces that responded 13,860 intimate image offences were recorded between January 2019 and July 2022. According to the figures, 26 per cent more offences were recorded in 2020 than in 2019; there was a 40 per cent increase in offences recorded between 2020 and 2021; and in the first six months of 2022 more offences were recorded than in all of 2020.

Refuge opines that the increase in reporting of alleged intimate image abuse offences could be due to the increase in public awareness of the crime, and the expansion of the offence in criminal law, which saw the law against revenge porn extended in 2021 to include the threat of sharing intimate images without consent.

Despite the increase in reporting in the last few years, which the charity deems to be a positive sign that more survivors are coming forward, Refuge expresses concern that the number of offenders being prosecuted is still “extremely low”.

Refuge CEO, Ruth Davison, comments: “Our frontline staff report that whilst public awareness around intimate image abuse has risen, and women are more informed about the criminal nature of these threats, by and large police officers don’t seem to be aware of the change to the law and are still turning women away because their abuser hasn’t shared the image in question. Police must take threats to share intimate images seriously, we know that this is a crime that causes significant harms, affecting women’s mental health and wellbeing. We hear from survivors that there is a pervasive culture of victim-blaming around intimate image abuse in the police, with women being blamed for sharing an intimate image with their perpetrator. Police forces must receive robust and consistent training to ensure their officers are up to date with the law and are confident in identifying intimate image offences and gathering evidence to support prosecutions. Officers need to know how to respond to and support survivors appropriately so that survivors aren’t forced to drop out of the criminal justice process.”