At the start of this week section 2 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 came into force. This section contains the provisions in the Act which are directed at the offence commonly referred to as “revenge porn”.

It is now a criminal offence to share, publish or distribute private intimate images of another person where there is an intention to cause that person distress. It is also a criminal offence to release intimate images in a reckless manner, even if there is no intention to cause someone distress. This would cover, for example, the distribution of intimate images of someone unknown which have been found on the hard drive of a second hand laptop.

The threat to share, publish or distribute private intimate images of another person is now also a criminal offence.

Sharing, publishing and distribution cover most conceivable scenarios, including the posting of images on any form of social media or the sharing of images by text message or the increasingly popular messaging service Whatsapp.

The Act defines what an intimate image is. As well as the obvious, the definition also includes images of a person in their underwear, which may catch out the people who think they are trying to be clever and keeping just on the right side of the law.

Whilst the wish for revenge can be a feature of the breakdown of some relationships, extracting that revenge by the sharing of intimate material could result in a fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

In short, any victim of revenge porn should contact the police immediately and anyone who has private intimate images of another person should keep them to themselves. The consequences of sharing them could be very costly.