Image-based sex abuse cases in Scotland double in five years

Tougher penalties have been demanded for image-based sex abuse crimes as it was revealed cases in Scotland have doubled in the past five years.

By Dale Miller
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 4:55 am

Analysis produced Scotland’s justice and social affairs magazine 1919 has shown that police recorded 912 incidents last year where someone had either disclosed or threatened to disclose an intimate image – a rate of more than 17 a week.

Charities and opposition leaders have called on the Scottish Government to introduce tougher penalties, with Victim Support Scotland describing the rise in cases as “significant”.

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Calls have been made for tougher penalties for image-based sex abuse crime

The charity said some victims may feel too embarrassed to report an incident to the police, but stressed the offender was “solely responsible for this type of crime”.

A Victim Support Scotland spokesperson said: “The figures surrounding the increase in cases of image-based sexual abuse are significant.

“Sharing private sexually explicit images online or offline, regardless of the intent, is a criminal offence.

“It is a violation of privacy and many victims often feel humiliated, traumatised and ashamed.”

Last year there were 530 cases where an intimate image was disclosed, and a further 382 incidents of the threat to disclose an image.

The figures compare to 421 cases recorded overall in 2017/18. The statistics were published in the Scottish Government’s annual recorded crime report.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene said those convicted of image-based sex abuse crimes deserved “serious punishment”.

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

But Mr Greene urged more action from the Government, saying his “thoughts are with all victims.”

“This type of crime can be particularly traumatic for victims as it often involves betrayal by someone they had trusted,” he told 1919 magazine.

“So it’s imperative that they are thoroughly supported when they interact with our justice system.

“We should also focus on prevention as sex crimes are at an all-time high under this SNP Government.

“Tackling this rise should be one of their top priorities, as well as supporting victims when they’re brave enough to report such crimes.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government created a specific offence to deal with this insidious behaviour in 2016. Previously such behaviour had to be dealt with under more general laws.

“That offence criminalises both the sharing or threatening to share intimate images. This was followed by a national awareness campaign to warn of the maximum sentence of up to five years, reflecting the serious nature of this crime. The campaign was re-run in May 2020 following concerns about an increase in this type of offending during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Scottish Government recognises the powerful role online platforms play in our lives, and have offered to work with the UK Government to strengthen their Online Safety Bill to address harmful online content, such as the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.”