Chris Grayling
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the UK government was open to taking 'appropriate action' against revenge porn.Reuters

The UK government is to bring in new laws and tough penalties to people who post "revenge porn" - sharing compromising images of former partners online.

Government ministers said they are keen to clamp down on the growing trend, where former lovers post private explicit images of former lovers online or on social media, to embarrass and shame their former partner.

Recently celebrity victims including Rihanna and former X Factor judge Tulisa have become victims of revenge porn posts, which victim support charities say can cause significant psychological harm.

Internet campaigners say the trend is a form of cyberbullying.

In the last two and a half years 149 cases of revenge pornography were reported to eight police forces in England and Wales. The victims have included children as young as 11.

There is currently no law in the UK that deals directly with the issue of revenge porn. But ministers have proposed changes to legislation, by making an amendment to the law as set out in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

Revenge Porn law

The new law would apply to both online and offline images. People convicted of the new revenge porn offences could face a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling told Sky News: "We want those who fall victim to this type of disgusting behaviour to know that we are on their side and will do everything we can to bring offenders to justice.

"That is why we will change the law and make it absolutely clear to those who act in this way that they could face prison."

Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of the charity Victim Support, said: "This type of behaviour can be extremely distressing for its victims causing them significant psychological harm. We are pleased that people who commit these gross violations of privacy will now face prosecution and victims of revenge porn know they have the full backing of the law."

But some lawyers questioned whether the law would work. Lawyer Myles Jackman told Sky News: "It is very difficult as there are a number of different scenarios in which revenge porn might be created. Creating an offence that catches all is almost impossible."