My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and to add my name to her important and transformative amendment, alongside the noble Baronesses, Lady Hodgson and Lady Grey-Thompson. The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, has set out with great clarity and passion the urgent need for this amendment to fill the very obvious gap in the current law on sharing intimate images.
In my many years of making the case for women’s rights, both here and internationally, I have come to the conclusion that technology is a wonderful thing—until it becomes an instrument of control and abuse, directed so often at women and girls as they are bullied, harassed and threatened online. We may hear the Government’s response to this amendment asking us—as the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, has said—to wait for the relevant Law Commission review. We know that that review began in 2019, following on from a scoping review in 2018, and that it is not going to report until the end of this year, 2021. There will then be a government review, and that will take us into 2022. There is no guarantee that any legislative action will take place immediately, in the medium term or in the long term—or before the next general election, for that matter. This is not good enough.
There can be horrendous consequences of so-called revenge porn: anxiety, depression, life-changing behaviour and, while suicide is not common, neither is it unheard of. Rachel lived in absolute fear of having intimate images taken without her knowledge sent to her family. It left her so hopeless and desperate that she became suicidal. The anxiety also left her unable to report the other horrendous abuse by her partner that she was suffering, because, as is so often the case, the threat to disclose intimate images is part of a pattern of abuse that is extreme. Refuge tells us that one in 10 women said that the threat to share images forced them to allow the perpetrator not only to have contact with their children but to resume the relationship because of the threat. Revenge porn crimes are undoubtedly linked to other forms of criminal behaviour. We know this because the majority of all image-based charges are brought alongside family violence offences.
This amendment specifically relates to an escalation of offending and co-offending that adds up to the domestic abuse that this Bill seeks to address. As we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, younger women are in the eye of this storm of abuse. Alison’s story is shocking, but not rare. Her ex-partner told her he had drugged and raped her and recorded the incidents on his phone. The police could not act before he did. However, they spoke to him, and he told them that he had deleted the images. Needless to say, he had not. He contacted Alison and told her that he still had the videos and threatened again to share them. I ask the Minister to take the temperature of the Committee tonight on this vital amendment and to work with us and the courageous women—Alison, Natasha, Rachel and all those young women who stand in ranks behind them—to ensure that this amendment forms part of the Bill. It is time to put a stop to this particularly insidious form of 21st-century patriarchal sadism.