Downblousing and Sharing of Pornographic “Deepfakes” Without Consent to be Made Illegal

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Announcements made today have confirmed the governments intentions to create new laws concerning the photographing of women's breasts and the sharing of pornographic images without the persons consent by amending the Online Safety Bill. This will increase arrests and make prosecutions easier for those alleged to be unlawfully taking and sending intimate images. 

The purpose of the Online Safety Bill is to deliver the government manifesto to commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. To date, the government has endeavoured to do this by introducing laws on up-skirting, which has seen prosecutions rise by targeting specific crimes under the Voyeurism Act 2019 and, revenge porn which is the sharing of intimate images or videos with the senders purpose being to cause embarrassment or distress. Since the introduction of such offences PCD Solicitors have been representing clients nationwide who are accused, and we now foresee an influx of prosecutions for likewise offences due to the new laws the government will be enacting. 

Upskirting is a covert type of abuse which typically involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing, typically up their skirt, as the name suggests, without them knowing. The proposals being discussed aim to extend this offence to cover the specific act of photographing a woman’s bra, cleavage or breasts and will be referred to as downblousing. 

What is downblousing?

Down blousing is the taking of photos down a person’s top without their consent. This act will become a criminal offence in England and Wales similar to that of up-skirting which was made a criminal offence in 2019 and carries a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment, with the requirement in some cases to sign the Sex Offenders Register. An amendment to the Online Safety Bill means police and prosecutors will be given more power to prosecute specific crimes which involve the unlawful taking of this type of image. 

What is the law in England and Wales now regarding downblousing? 

In England and Wales acts such as up skirting or voyeurism are criminalised, but there is no specific law regarding downblousing. Recommendations from The Law Commission would extend these laws further to cover the act of photographing a woman’s bra, cleavage or breasts in England and Wales. This law is already applicable in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and those convicted of such an offence in the Irish or Scottish courts can serve a maximum of two years in prison. Whether the sentence for such an offence would be the same in England and Wales we are yet to see. 

What are pornographic deep fakes? 

A “deepfake” pornographic image is where a person’s image is manipulated onto the body of someone else. 

Figures show around one in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced a threat to share intimate images. Police records show that between April 2015 and December 2021, there were 28,000 reports of disclosing private sexual images without consent. These statistics currently apply to Revenge Porn, under the new laws we are to see implemented, the sharing of an image which is doctored will result in court proceedings being pursued by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service increasing convictions for this type of offending. 

So what is the current law? Are deepfakes illegal in the UK?

There is no specific law at present which applies to pornographic deepfakes or downblousing. However, the voyeurism act aims to criminalise those who operate electronic equipment to take inappropriate photos/videos of an intimate nature of another person for the purposes of sexual gratification or to cause humiliation, alarm or distress. 

The current law regarding revenge porn makes it an offence for a person to share private sexual materials either photos or videos of another person without their consent, and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. The sharing can sometimes be accompanied by the personal information about the subject, including their full name, address and links to their social media profiles, which aggravates the offence. In addition to the criminalisation of down blousing and deep-fakes, amendments to the online safety bill would remove the necessity for the Crown Prosecution Service to prove that the purpose of the sender of the image/video in revenge porn cases, was to cause embarrassment or distress. This would simplify the offence in that a person is guilty if the image/video is sent regardless of the senders intentions increasing the likelihood of a person being successfully prosecuted if they are not adequately represented. 

How PCD Solicitors can help you?

At PCD Solicitors we specialise in sexual offences, our staff bring over 30 years experience in defending those accused of serious crime including rape, sexual offences against children and voyeurism offences. Being accused of a sexual offences not only brings the prospect of a custodial sentence and the requirement to register as a sex offender, but it carries a stigma. Many of our clients worry about the impact a conviction for a sex offence can have on their ability to live a normal family and working life and find this aspect of an allegation or conviction particularly difficult. We are well equipped with the knowledge and experience to guide you through the process of a criminal investigation and or court proceedings, with a record of achieving the best results possible for our clients we are assured that the new laws will not impact our ability to continue to defend such allegations and we will continue to ensure our clients receive the most lenient sentence possible where applicable. 

For a free non judgemental and confidential chat regarding please contact our office on 0151 705 8488, alternatively fill in our online enquiry form and one of our lawyers will get in touch.