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New initiative from QMUL offers free legal advice to victims of revenge porn

Victims of revenge porn can apply for free legal advice through a new service offered by the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). As part of the service, victims will receive legal advice from a team of trained student advisors – under the supervision of experienced, qualified lawyers - at QMUL’s Legal Advice Centre.

3 February 2015

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According to Julie Pinborough, Director of QMUL’s Legal Advice Centre, revenge porn is a “disturbing and rapidly growing phenomenon”.

“While the alleged number of reported offences (149) is relatively small, we know that many victims never come forward. Stigma is definitely an issue; people often feel embarrassed, afraid and powerless.”

In today's Telegraph, Julie outlined the steps that victims can take in order to seek redress.

Currently, victims of revenge porn who are seeking redress face a number of complex and potentially expensive legal challenges. A civil claim based on breach of confidence or copyright is possible, but the claimant is required to pay the legal costs – in the hope that they will be refunded following a successful legal case.

“The civil route involves a substantial upfront financial investment and significant risk for the victim. Even when successful, it’s difficult to quantify an appropriate award of damages. How much for your reputation, your privacy, and your well-being?” said Julie.

Victims can also report abuse through the criminal law system, which already enables prosecutors to bring charges against those who publish private information online, but is considered by some to be outdated and in need of improvement. 

“Our criminal law system is currently playing ‘catch-up’ in an effort to deal with this relatively new problem. As it stands, prosecutors must rely on legislation that is either outdated or designed for another purpose. While there have been successful prosecutions, there is a need for reform and we very much welcome the fact that revenge porn will be made a specific offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill,” said Julie

The Bill is currently going through Parliament and once enacted will carry a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. Dr Ian Walden, Professor of Information and Communications Law at QMUL, noted “the success of the new offence will also depend in large part on the attitude of the police and prosecuting authorities, who have recently faced an ever expanding number of social media related criminal cases, putting pressure of existing resources”.

The service is supported by specialist lawyers at Mishcon de Reya, which has worked with QMUL’s Pink Law project for six years. 

Julie Pinborough urged those affected by revenge porn to contact the Legal Advice Centre at QMUL for sensitive, expert, and free legal advice on how best to proceed.

“If you’ve been affected, please don’t suffer in silence or feel that you’re alone. We understand that these incidents can really throw your life off course, but there are legal supports and services to help you take control and get back on track.”

About the service

  • Appointments are available during term time (October to May). The Legal Advice Centre is a voluntary service, and appointments are subject to capacity and demand. Clients can request an appointment on the Legal Advice Centre website
  • More information on the service, and details of how to seek a free, confidential appointment, are available here

 

 

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