Amendment 162

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 11:00 pm on 8th February 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Hodgson of Abinger Baroness Hodgson of Abinger Conservative 11:00 pm, 8th February 2021

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, and I am pleased to stand in support of Amendment 162, which is tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Morgan, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Crawley and Lady Grey-Thompson. It aims to close the criminal loophole that the ease of smartphones and modern technology has afforded perpetrators of domestic violence.

In her introduction to the amendment, my noble friend Lady Morgan set out the sheer scale of how simple threats to share sexual images or videos without consent are being used as a tool of coercive control and domestic abuse with devastating effect. Sadly, this seems to be a growing problem. The time is late, and I do not propose to repeat the statistic that we have already heard: that 4.4 million people are affected. The impact of these threats from current or ex-partners has huge negative results on mental and emotional well-being, creating enormous fear and anxiety, and, sadly, they are very effective. Four out of five women surveyed changed the way they behaved as a result of threats. They feel ashamed, anxious, isolated, frightened and even suicidal.

On Second Reading, my noble friend the Minister acknowledged these concerns and highlighted that the Law Commission has launched a review of the law relating to the non-consensual taking and sharing of intimate images, including, but not limited to, the revenge porn offence in Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. However, as she has already said, waiting for the results of the review may take a long time, because once it is concluded it can take up to six months for the Government to provide an interim response to the findings and a full year before a final formal response. While the Government often accept Law Commission findings, as your Lordships well know, they are then subject to the Government finding a suitable piece of legislation and parliamentary time to make the legal changes enabling a recommendation to come into force. As has already been mentioned, it could be years, so why wait when this Bill provides the perfect opportunity for the change today? We do not need a review to tell us that this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, as do our concerns about the effectiveness of the law as it stands. I ask the Minister: why not accept this amendment, even if it is not perfect? This change, which we can make now, will provide victims with the support they need to fight back against such abusive, despicable behaviour as revenge porn and give the police the power they require to be able to act.