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Only six cases of revenge porn in Kent led to an offender being charged or cautioned in the last year

More than 95% of revenge porn cases in Kent in the past year have not led to an offender being charged.

The majority ended with victims withdrawing support from the investigation or cases facing difficulties with evidence.

The majority of reported cases of revenge porn do not lead to the offender being charged or cautioned
The majority of reported cases of revenge porn do not lead to the offender being charged or cautioned

Someone is guilty of revenge porn if they share - online or offline - visual media of a private, sexual nature with the intent of causing distress to the person depicted.

In the last year, just six cases of the 199 concluded by Kent Police resulted in a charge, summons, postal requisition or caution.

Out of the rest, 94 failed due to the victim withdrawing or refusing to support the investigation. A total of 76 cases concluded due to difficulties with evidence, 55 of which had a named suspect.

Two resulted in further action being undertaken by another agency and 11 are currently being investigated.

A spokesperson for the Revenge Porn Helpline said many victims were reluctant to go to court out of fear of further violation, especially in a domestic abuse situation.

A spokesperson for the Revenge Porn Helpline said many victims fear further violation.
A spokesperson for the Revenge Porn Helpline said many victims fear further violation.

The spokesperson added: "There is no guarantee of anonymity for victims as this is classed as a communications offence, not a sexual one. In practice, media tend not to name people, but there is no guarantee. Defendants are named, so there is also a possibility people who know either party can work out who they are."

The Law Commission is currently undertaking a review into whether laws adequately protect people from new forms of abusive and offensive communications. The helpline hopes this review will help to protect victims, but believes more needs to be done outside of legislation.

The spokesperson added: "There is a desperate need for training for the police in the harm caused by online abuse generally and the disclosure of private images more specifically.

"Too often, victims are told there is nothing the police can do, they shouldn’t have sent the images in the first place or made to feel that they are wasting police time."

Detective chief inspector Sam Mercer, of Kent Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Command, said: "Offences of revenge porn can be particularly distressing for the victims.

Detective chief inspector Sam Mercer said: "Offences of revenge porn can be particularly distressing for the victims."
Detective chief inspector Sam Mercer said: "Offences of revenge porn can be particularly distressing for the victims."

"Most victims report incidents to police because they want the behaviour to stop or because they want the material removed from public display.

"Many victims feel a high degree of embarrassment, partly because the offence has been committed by someone they were close to - a partner or friend.

"When a victim does not wish to support a prosecution, we will often seek to bring offenders to justice without putting the victim through what they may find to be a difficult court process. We work closely with partner agencies to raise awareness of support for victims of crime to help them engage with the criminal justice process."

The detective chief inspector noted that although the level of reported revenge porn was relatively low in the county, Kent Police does have resources it needs to investigate effectively.

She added: "A significant challenge to successful prosecutions is often that the perpetrator is not resident in the UK and is therefore not committing the offence from the UK and the material itself is often hosted outside the UK."

According to recent figures, the most frequent reported method of sharing private images was Facebook
According to recent figures, the most frequent reported method of sharing private images was Facebook

The Revenge Porn Helpline has faced an overwhelming number of calls recently. The spokesperson added: "Numbers of cases have been rising at a steady 30% year-on-year anyway, but lockdown has seen even those high numbers double."

Callers have given the impression that the pressures of lockdown have made their environments more intense, pushed them into the virtual sphere and led to a rise in incidents. At the same time, victims have been cut off from friends and family while support services are overwhelmed.

The spokesperson added: "I think many more people than we are aware of are living with threats to share their content or having it shared. There isn’t necessarily the widespread awareness that this is a criminal offence or there is support available."

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