New law makes it easier to prosecute those who share intimate images without consent

Category: Protection of privacy

12th July 2017

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 has introduced a new offence of 'disclosing, or threatening to disclose, an intimate photograph or film.' Those convicted of the new offence could face up to five years imprisonment.


The offence covers:

  • photographs or films showing people engaged in a sexual activity which would not usually be done in public, or with their genitals, buttocks or breasts exposed or covered only with underwear.
  • doesn't cover the sharing of other materials such as private text messages and emails which are dealt with under separate legislation.
  • doesn't apply to sharing photographs of naked protests or streakers at sports matches.


Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP said of the new Act:

"Modern technology gives us the potential to link up or keep in touch with friends and loved ones around the world and opens up incredible opportunities, but the scale of its reach means that when it is abused to intimidate, harass or expose someone in this way, the impact can be hugely damaging.

"There is no place for this abusive and manipulative behaviour in Scotland, and the threat of sharing images without consent will be viewed just as seriously as the act of sharing. The maximum penalty of up to five years reflects the serious nature of this crime and anyone who shares or threatens to share an intimate image without consent will feel the full force of the law"

The introduction of the Act has been accompanied by a nation-wide public awareness campaign which was developed in partnership with Scottish Women's Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Police Scotland and the Crown Office.
The campaign aims to educate the public about the consequences of sharing intimate images under the new laws and to help people better understand how the new law works in practice.


Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women's Aid, voiced support for the Act and the new campaign: "So called 'revenge porn' is not about revenge, and it's not about porn. It's about power, control and humiliation. Sharing, or threatening to share intimate pictures or videos of someone without their consent causes devastating harm to victims and it is absolutely right that the law should reflect this."

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