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Revenge Porn

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 14 January 2016

5. What discussions she has had with her ministerial colleagues on tackling revenge porn; and what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the revenge porn helpline. (903008)

As I have said before, the Government are absolutely clear about the fact that what is illegal offline is illegal online. We have criminalised this abhorrent act, and the revenge porn helpline has supported more than 3,000 callers since its launch last February. It is there to support anyone who is affected, regardless of gender, sexuality, race or age. No one should have to suffer as a result of this repulsive crime, and we will ensure that we continue to support those who are affected by it.

Will the helpline, and other measures, help more victims to come forward for support? Will they also help to take down the vile and abusive content from the internet, and prosecute and, indeed, take down the vile and abusive offenders?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Obviously it is important for victims to receive the right support, but we want to go further and make it clear, through education and awareness, that this is a crime and that it will not be tolerated. The internet can be a huge force for good, but it can also be a platform for abuse and intimidation. Staff monitor the helpline and provide support, but they have also been very successful in ensuring that content is quickly removed from the internet, and they work directly with social media and website providers.

I thank the Minister for her earlier comments about the elevation of Arlene Foster to the position of First Minister. The Stormont fresh start agreement already looks brighter with her in charge.

My question relates to the ever-increasing digital society. The press is still full of stories about revenge porn incidents. Does the Minister recognise the need to raise awareness of people’s rights, and of the new offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, which is intended to tackle the increasing amount of online revenge porn?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is an offence of which people are more aware, but, sadly, that means that there are more cases of it, which is why we have criminalised it and established a helpline to offer support. However, we must go further and make it clear that this is not an acceptable way for people to behave. We must also give guidance to potential victims, advising them to think very carefully about images that they share and how they could then be abused.