I wish to inform the House that the Government intend to legislate to introduce a package of new criminal offences on intimate image abuse when Parliamentary time allows. We also intend to make some of these changes earlier by way of Government amendments to the Online Safety Bill.
Intimate or sexual images can now easily be taken, copied or shared without consent and used for unacceptable, cruel or malicious reasons. This behaviour can be highly intrusive, humiliating and distressing. It is therefore important that we ensure that our legal framework effectively deals with this behaviour.
The Government intend to bring forward a package of criminal offences based on the recommendations made in the Law Commission’s report, “Taking, Making and Sharing of Intimate Images Without Consent”, which was published in July 2022. We will create a new “base” offence of taking or sharing an intimate image without consent, and three further, more serious, offences. Two of these more serious offences will cover instances where the intimate image is taken or shared without consent, and with the intention of obtaining sexual gratification, or of causing humiliation, alarm or distress to the victim. The third more serious offence will target those “threatening to share” an intimate image. Finally, we intend to introduce a fifth new offence, aimed at prohibiting a person from installing equipment with the intention, or enabling them or another person, to commit the offence of taking an intimate image without consent.
These measures will involve the repeal or amendment of several current offences, and the creation of a new, more coherent package of measures. While we have already created criminal offences to deal with upskirting, revenge porn and breastfeeding voyeurism, this new package of offences will also ensure that we deliver on the PM’s pledge to criminalise “downblousing”.
These new offences will provide the police with the powers they need to fully investigate this increasingly intrusive and disturbing behaviour, and address mounting public concern around the law’s ability to deal effectively with the harms caused by non-consensual taking, making and sharing of intimate images.
In addition to this medium-term plan, we do have the opportunity in the Online Safety Bill to address some of the current concerns with the criminal law. We will therefore bring forward a Government amendment to the Online Safety Bill during the Lords stages of the Bill to address concerns in relation to the sending of intimate images, including addressing matters concerning intent and the type of images the offence will cover. Introducing these specific measures in the Online Safety Bill will ensure that we provide victims with the additional protection they deserve sooner rather than later.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks for all the important work that the Law Commission has carried out as part of this review, which has enabled the Government to conclude there is a need to legislate.