Police bosses face revenge porn questions

Police news
Police news

Sussex police bosses faced questions about the force’s handling of revenge porn reports following a case involving several victims from Eastbourne.

At a meeting on Friday (May 20), Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne asked Chief Constable Giles York and Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor if frontline officers fully understand the offence.

Mrs Bourne raised the questions after victims from Eastbourne criticised the force over its decision not to seek prosecution of a man who had posted stolen photos of several women to an abusive porn site.

She said, “I have no doubt in my mind that senior officers understand this, they understand the implications and take it very seriously. My concern is that frontline officers don’t yet.

“I’m looking to you both for reassurance because of the particular incident which happened in Sussex very recently. I was contacted by the mother of one of the victims. I heard a lot about the perpetrator and how sorry they were and how they promised they wouldn’t do it again and I heard nothing about the victim or the impact that has.

“I want to understand if officers really get this. I know its a new law but it’s law and it’s been in a year. The impact, not just on the victim but on their family as well, is really important.”

Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor told Mrs Bourne that, as the offence had only been recently introduced and is thought to be relatively under-reported, not many Sussex officers would have first hand experience of revenge porn.

He said, “It’s fair to say that it is not an offence that we have full understanding of yet. The second part to that is we absolutely recognise the impact of the decision in that particular case and we’ve apologised to victims for the impact of that decision.

“Superintendent Nick May, who has led a review of our activity around this, has spoken to each of those victims.

“Taking this forward what is really important as an organisation is we do understand that impact and I’m hugely grateful to the four victims from the incident this week who have been in contact with us and will work with us to help understand that impact.”

Earlier in the meeting Chief Constable Giles York said he believed the offence is “hugely under-reported” as Sussex Police had only recorded 63 cases of revenge porn in the last year.

He said, “It’s not an offence that officers right across the board will be incredibly familiar with, it is quite a rare thing to be reporting an offence of this type.

“I would like to take this opportunity to say if somebody thinks they have been subjected to this of course they will be embarrassed. They may feel humiliated by it because that is what the offender wants them to feel and I would want them to be able to come through and report it to us.

“Of those 63, four of them have been charged. There have been two cautions as well issued for this offence and then a variety of other outcomes, where there may have been insufficient evidence but quite a big one is where the victim does not want to support it.

“There is a slight anomaly, as this may be there to embarrass or humiliate the victim and of course the judicial process takes them through the court process.”

The Chief Constable also spoke about criticism the force had come under for its decision to issue a police caution rather than pursue a criminal prosecution in the court.

He said, “Can I just stress for the public that a police caution is not just a few words said to someone.

“A police caution is a formal judicial outcome. It goes on to somebody as a formal criminal record against someone, it is disclosable on CRB checks and other things like that.

“By no means is a formal police caution a ‘letting off’ in any way at all.

“Also something I would like to be able to stress, with this case in particular, is that the specific offence around this carries a maximum of a two-year sentence. That means this person would never be put on to the sex offenders register as a result of committing this offence.

“So albeit with a caution he may not be put on to the sex offenders register, they never would have been even had they been given a two-year sentence in court, because that is not long enough to qualify.

“But what I wanted to stress is that a police caution is by no means being let of the hook, ask anyone who has got one.”

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