Man pleads guilty to new “revenge porn” offence in breach of restraining...

Man pleads guilty to new “revenge porn” offence in breach of restraining order

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On 11 June, the Mirror covered the story of Paul Marquis and his ex partner.

He pleaded guilty at Teesside Magistrates’ Court to one charge of disclosing a sexual photo with intent to cause distress and one charge of harassment by breaching a restraining order.

Marquis and his ex partner had been in a relationship for a period of about 10 months. However, for one reason or another, the relationship broke down sometime before March 2015. Following the breakdown of the relationship, a restraining order was imposed on Marquis, prohibiting him from contacting his ex partner – following, we assume, a complaint made by Marquis’ ex partner.

In a witness statement, she said: “During the course of the relationship I was subjected to emotional abuse. He would tell me my children were ashamed of me. He used to call me names. He was very controlling.”

What happened?

Marquis contacted his ex partner via text message on 15 May 2015, causing “notable distress”. On 25 May 2015, Marquis sent a picture of his ex partner’s bare breasts to her new partner.

Some weeks later, Marquis’ ex partner gave birth to their child. There was then a further disagreement.

Marquis pleaded guilty to the new “revenge porn” offence (the correct description being “disclosing a sexual photo with intent to cause distress”) and breaching a restraining order.

The case was adjourned for the preparation of a pre-sentence report and Marquis was bailed. He will be sentenced on 30 June.

Sentence

The maximum sentence for the “revenge porn” offence is 2 years. There are no sentencing guidelines. This would appear to fall towards the lower end of the scale of seriousness as the “disclosure” was to one individual only and to a person with whom the victim was in a sexual relationship. Therefore, it might be said that the harm is less than is otherwise the case in typical examples of this offence.

The maximum sentence for the breach of the restraining order is 5 years. Breaches are taken seriously, particularly ones where the order has not been in place for a lengthy period of time. However this was a single breach and so the seriousness is somewhat reduced. We don’t know the contents of the message or any details as to the “dispute” following the birth of their child. The court will refer to the sentencing guidelines for breach of a protective order and most likely place the breach into the bottom category, which has a starting point of a low level community order.

Comment

One of the interesting features of this case that sprung to mind was the issue of anonymity. The Mirror declines to refer to the victim by name, referring to her only as “Marquis’ ex partner”. However, the new “revenge porn” offence does not attract the protection of the automatic anonymity provisions of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, and so it would appear (absent an order made by the judge – the existence of which we are unaware) that there is no bar to naming the victim in such cases.

The rationale for not extending the protection of the 1992 Act may well be because the new offence is viewed as belonging to the category offences concerning harassment, as opposed it the group of offences concerned with sexual behaviour. If that is so, it would appear misguided, particularly as part of the justification for the new legislation was the harm and upset that being the victim of such an offence can cause.

Let’s hope Parliament has a re-think and includes the new offence in the 1992 Act.

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