Wed09192018

Last update09:11:14 AM GMT

Queen Mary University of London to offer free legal advice for victims of revenge porn

Victims of revenge porn can apply for free legal advice through a new service offered by the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). As part of the service, victims will receive legal advice from a team of trained student advisors – under the supervision of experienced, qualified lawyers - at QMUL’s Legal Advice Centre.

According to Julie Pinborough, Director of QMUL’s Legal Advice Centre, revenge porn is a “disturbing and rapidly growing phenomenon”.

“While the alleged number of offences - 149 - is relatively small, we know that many victims never come forward. Stigma is definitely an issue; people often feel embarrassed, afraid and powerless.”

Currently, victims of revenge porn who are seeking redress face a number of complex and potentially expensive legal challenges. A civil claim based on breach of confidence or copyright is possible, but the claimant is required to pay the legal costs – in the hope that they will be refunded following a successful legal case.

“The civil route involves a substantial upfront financial investment and significant risk for the victim,” says Julie Pinborough. “Even when successful, it’s difficult to quantify an appropriate award of damages. How much for your reputation, your privacy, and your well-being?”

Victims can also report abuse through the criminal law system, which already enables prosecutors to bring charges against those who publish private information online, but is considered by some to be outdated and in need of improvement. The criminal law is currently undergoing a series of reforms following a proliferation of revenge porn cases.

“Our criminal law system is currently playing ‘catch-up’ in an effort to deal with this relatively new problem. As it stands, prosecutors must rely on legislation that is either outdated or designed for another purpose. While there have been successful prosecutions, there is a need for reform and we very much welcome the fact that revenge porn will be made a specific offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill,” said Julie

The Bill is currently going through Parliament and once enacted will carry a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. Dr Ian Walden, Professor of Information and Communications Law in the School of Law at Queen Mary, noted “the success of the new offence will also depend in large part on the attitude of the police and prosecuting authorities, who have recently faced an ever expanding number of social media related criminal cases, putting pressure of existing resources”.

The service is supported by specialist lawyers at Mishcon de Reya, which has worked with QMUL’s Pink Law project for six years. Emma Woollcott, Reputation Protection lawyer at Mishcon de Reya, said: “Revenge porn is a pernicious and challenging issue, which must be dealt with sensitively but robustly. Mishcon de Reya is very pleased to lend its support, experience and expertise to QMUL.”

Julie Pinborough urged those affected by revenge porn to contact the Legal Advice Centre at QMUL for “sensitive, expert, and free legal advice on how best to proceed”.

“If you’ve been affected, please don’t suffer in silence or feel that you’re alone. We understand that these incidents can really throw your life off course, but there are legal supports and services to help you take control and get back on track.”

About the service

Appointments are available during term time (October to May). The Legal Advice Centre is a voluntary service, and appointments are subject to capacity and demand. Clients can request an appointment on the Legal Advice Centre website.

About the QMUL Legal Advice Centre

The Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre (LAC) provides a free, accessible, client centred advice service to the public. We act as a first-tier advice agency: providing preliminary advice on the strength of the client’s case, the processes that need to be followed, and an explanation of complex legal issues. Clients come to the advice centre from a wide variety of backgrounds and present a wide range of legal issues.

The award-winning Legal Advice Centre was opened by its Patron, Lord Goldsmith, in 2006. Since its opening, the Centre has advised over 1481 clients. In 2014-15 the Centre has 74 undergraduate law students and 36 postgraduate students volunteering as Student Advisers on a range of legal areas including housing, immigration, family, employment, data protection and corporate law.

In addition, the Centre has more than 150 solicitors who volunteer as Student Supervisors and 19 undergraduate and postgraduate students who provide administrative support.

We advise clients on their legal position and what steps to take next. We do not undertake casework or representation of clients in the courts or at tribunals; we do however act as a referral agency to other free legal advice providers who are able to offer representation. It is necessary to attend a legal advice centre such as ours in order to obtain this referral.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 17:10