Just 18 months after a change in the law on so called 'revenge porn' offences, the Crown Prosecution Service has released statistics showing there have been more than 200 prosecutions.

The offence was introduced in April 2015 and carries a maximum prison sentence of two years. Prior to the introduction of this offence, cases had to be brought through existing copyright or harassment laws.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, has said the figures show a growing trend of using social media and the internet to "humiliate, control and threaten individuals".

The figures suggest public awareness around the offence is increasing, which in turn may lead to an increase in civil claims, particularly in light of recent related developments.

In ABC v WH 2000 Ltd v William Whillock [2015] EWHC 2687 (QB) the Court awarded damages for 'sexting' for the first time. The Claimant sought damages for mental and emotional distress after it was discovered she had received inappropriate texts from Mr Whillock, who was a member of staff of the school she attended. The court held there was intentional infliction of harm and awarded the Claimant a total of £51,370 in damages.

The decision in this case may result in the possible increase of 'revenge porn' claims as the 'mental conduct' element is likely to be easier to satisfy than in cases of 'sexting'. A claimant bringing a 'revenge porn' claim is likely to be able to show the discovery of the private image being available to third parties would cause the necessary level of humiliation and embarrassment required to claim under the tort of causing intentional harm.

Furthermore in Whillock the Claimant was awarded £10,000 for handicap on the labour market, which could potentially be higher in revenge porn claims as it would be easier to argue personal images are more degrading and detrimental to securing a job than text messages. In addition, the court stated the Claimant would have been awarded £25,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA) if the claim was for sexting alone. This figure suggests revenge porn claim awards could be higher.

We have recently seen an expansion in the doctrine of vicarious liability following Mohamud v WM Morrisons Supermarket plc [2016] UKSC 11 (see our update here). This may result in occupational 'revenge porn' claims in certain circumstances, given the wider application of the 'close connection' and the 'field of activities' tests.

On the other hand, there may be an increase in claims against social media platforms such as Facebook. A High Court Judge in Belfast recently rejected Facebook's attempts to strike out a claim by a 14 year old girl who is suing the company after a naked picture of her was posted on the site as an act of revenge. The girl is also taking legal action against the man who allegedly posted the picture and is seeking damages for misuse of private information, negligence and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.