“Revenge porn” offence gets suspended sentence – a sign of things to...

“Revenge porn” offence gets suspended sentence – a sign of things to come?

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On 1 September 2015, Paige Mitchell, 24, was sentenced for “Disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress” – more commonly known as “revenge porn”.

What happened?

Ms Mitchell had been in a relationship with the victim, for around 14 months. Following a “fight”, Mitchell uploaded intimate images of her girlfriend to her own Facebook profile.

The victim, who was not named by the press despite (no doubt through legislative oversight) there being no automatic anonymity for victims of the “revenge porn” offence, said she felt embarrassed that “People who I didn’t want to see my body have seen me (naked)”.

It appeared that the couple had since reconciled but during the sentencing hearing Mitchell invited the court to impose a restraining order upon her which would force the couple to “split for good”. It appears that the court declined that invitation.

Sentence

Mitchell was sentenced in the magistrates’ court, having pleaded guilty to assault by beating and disclosing private sexual photographs with intent to cause distress.

The bench imposed a six-week custodial term for the “revenge porn” offence, with a two-week custodial term for the assault, to run concurrently. The court suspended those terms for a period of 18 months. It is not known whether any requirements were attached to the suspended sentence order.

It was reported that she “… was also made to pay £345 in costs.”

Added to the sentence would have been a statutory surcharge of £80 and, if the offences were committed on or after 13 April 2015, the criminal courts charge (of £180, as this is an either way offence dealt with on a guilty plea in the magistrates’ court). The £345 figure would have included both the surcharge and criminal courts charge, leaving the usual sum of £85 prosecution costs. It would have been nice for the news reports to spell this out a little more clearly.

Comment

Is this a sign of things to come? No.

The news reports reveal no reasons given for suspending the sentence – remember of course that a court must first determine if the offence(s) cross the custody threshold, then determine the appropriate term, then determine whether it is capable to suspend the sentence. This case demonstrates that the judge considered the offence crossed the custody threshold (just). It is likely that “revenge porn” cases will see custodial sentences, save for where there are some exceptional circumstance that allows the judge to take an alternative course.

As we don’t know much about the circumstances of the offence (number of pictures, period for which they were available online, whether they were removed by the defendant, the nature of the pictures etc.) it is difficult to comment but one would suspect that Mitchell is sat at home counting her lucky stars that she is not currently en route to the big house facing the prospect of her first night at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

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Lyndon is the General Editor of Current Sentencing Practice and the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing)

1 COMMENT

  1. Meanwhile… while the Police are busy looking at photos on Facebook, if you are a victim of theft, housebreaking etc.. you’ll be lucky if you see any officers turning up.

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