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Court awards damages in “sexting” case

02/12/2015

Author: Hayley Mortlock

Disputes, Legal Updates

For the first time, a court has awarded damages in the sum of £25,000 to a victim who sued for the harm caused by sending sexually-explicit text messages and images to another.

The case came to trial in September 2015, and the victim was a girl who had been encouraged to text sexually-explicit photographs of herself to a teacher. The girl told the court that she had felt pressurised into sending these photographs.  

The teacher denied that he had encouraged her to send him indecent photographs, but pleaded guilty to possessing indecent photographs of a child in court. The Judge referred to the teacher as a “wholly untrustworthy witness” and he received a three year community sentence.

The court took a view that the encouragement by the perpetrator of the exchange of text messages and images, would inevitably cause the girl psychological harm. Furthermore, any illicit relationship would eventually cause nothing but harm to a “vulnerable” young woman and this would be serious and long lasting.

The court felt that the girl had been “harmed” and she was awarded compensation for the harm caused by her sending of the text messages and images alone.

In practice, this could mean the following:-

  • Anyone involved in “sexting” another person needs to be sure that person is psychologically robust, is not vulnerable and is consenting to the exchange of messages and images;
  • This includes exchange over mobile applications or “apps” such as Snapchat and WhatsApp;
  • If you are manipulated into sending or receiving a sexually-explicit message or image, and you suffer psychological harm as a result, you could bring a claim;
  • The claim would be a civil action for damages and you could be entitled to compensation.

This case has now set a legal precedent and we will wait to see how many claims are brought to court on this basis, in the foreseeable future.

If you need advice on this, or any Dispute Resolution matter, please contact Colin Cook or Mark Fitch at Hatch Brenner on 01603 660 811.  

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