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What’s in a name? ‘Revenge porn’ case in point.

This week saw what is thought to be the first case of ‘revenge porn’ to come before the civil courts in England and Wales, with judge The Hon. Mrs Justice Thornton DBE awarding £100,000 in damages. Both the judge and subsequent analysis of the case have commented on case terminology and how this can be misleading.

 

The claimant in this case (FGX v Stuart Gaunt) who has rightfully not been named to protect her identity, had discovered that whilst living with the defendant Steve Gaunt, he had secretly been recording photos and videos of her and posting them onto a pornographic website. There was also evidence that he had obtained payment for the images.

 

The term ‘revenge porn’ is commonly used to describe the defendant’s conduct but as the judge Mrs Thornton pointed out, the term conveys the impression that a victim somehow deserved what happened to them. Many of the comments on the news coverage of this case featured on The Law Gazette, also suggested that the term was misleading referring to the ‘porn’ element of the definition which could suggest the victim was willingly recorded for private use.

 

Furthermore, the phrase ‘revenge’ is defined as ‘the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands’ however, the action of recording the footage was done while the former couple were living together not after the relationship ended which is normally when ‘revenge porn’ takes place.

 

The description suggested by the Counsel and used in this judgment, has been changed to ‘image-based abuse’, as explained by Mrs Thornton which is reflective of the fact that “impacts on the claimant are akin to the impacts of sexual assault…albeit that the abuse…is image based rather than physical”; the claimant suffered from chronic PTSD and is considered ‘one of a minority of cases in which PTSD becomes chronic over several years causing an enduring personality change.’

 

In a criminal case in 2020, Gaunt was convicted of voyeurism and other sexual offences and received a two-year suspended sentence. He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years. He did not appear for the civil case therefore didn’t provide any defence to the High Court claim which Mrs Thornton said “…has deprived the claimant of the opportunity to obtain information about the extent of publication, which remains a preoccupation for her and a barrier to her recovery.”

 

Mrs Justice Thornton awarded the claimant general damages of £60,000 and special damages of £37,041.61 for consequential financial losses.

 

If you’ve been affected by a crime whether you are a business or individual, you can be assured that our criminal lawyers will be there to listen, not judge, and use terminology that is jargon-free. Client testimonials for Ralli Solicitors LLP often comment on the empathy offered by our team – we’re here to support you through every step of your case. You can speak to Lynn Mahon or Stephen Fox in our Crime Law team in complete confidence, by calling our dedicated 24/7 crime number on 0161 615 0660.