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Two per cent of revenge porn cases prosecuted in the West Midlands

By Mark Cardwell | Crime | Published:

Only around two per cent of reports of "revenge porn" offences resulted in a charge last year, in the West Midlands, according to figures released by police.

West Midlands Police released figures on reports of the crime - defined as the sharing of private sexual photos and video with intent to cause distres - for across the region in 2019/20.

Support services have said the term "intimate image abuse" should be used, as "revenge porn" suggests the victim did something wrong.

The data, released in response to a Freedom of Information request, showed there were 260 reports of this offence, but only five resulted in a charge, summons or postal charge.

In 93 cases, victims did not support or withdrew support for police action, while in 66 cases, victims did support police action but "evidential difficulties" prevented the case being taken further.

In 55 cases, no suspect was identified and the case was closed. In five cases, a caution was issued while in four there was a community resolution.

Other outcomes were “named suspect not identified” (eight), “investigation not in the public interest” (one), “other agency takes primacy” (three), and “blank” (20).

A total of 214 victims were female and 42 were male, with four “not recorded/unknown”, while 21 victims were under the age of 18.

In 76 cases, there were references to “social media”, “Facebook” or "Twitter” mentioned in the case notes.

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The Reach Data Unit reported last year that that there were 14 prosecutions for revenge porn in the West Midlands Police force area in 2018, with 12 convictions.

There were 13 prosecutions in 2017, 24 in 2016, and five in 2015 when the law had just been introduced.

Responding to the figures, deputy police and crime commissioner Waheed Saleem said more needs to be done to courage victims to come forward, such as granting anonymity.

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"Revenge porn is a nasty crime which seeks to cause individual distress by the sharing of the most personal and intimate information without consent," he said.

"It is used to manipulate, control and destroy the lives of those it effects. The deep-seated long-term impact of revenge porn on victims mean that they struggle to move on with their lives and the difficulty of tracking where the image has been shared and the ability for those images to be shared, re-distributed and viewed again makes it even harder for a victim to recover from the trauma caused.

"Reports of revenge porn are very low and more needs to be done to encourage victims to come forward and changes to the law to make it fit for purpose to support victims in 2020. For example changing the law to classify it as a sexual offence and granting victims anonymity.

"It is key that we ensure members of the public and particularly those affected by this horrible and personal crime know their rights to report it to the police."

A Revenge Porn Helpline spokesperson said: "Sadly, the numbers that have been disclosed are not unusual.

"We do frequently see that there are large numbers of cases not proceeded with because the victim does not support the prosecution, which reflects the fact that many of these cases arise from abusive relationships which see similar outcomes.

"With numbers of cases constantly rising (and doubled under lockdown) we need to see an improvement in police response so that victims of this horrendous crime can achieve some justice.”

Victims are urged to call 0345 6000 459 for confidential support.

Mark Cardwell

By Mark Cardwell
Reporter - @mlrcardwell

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham.

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