Laura Davis: Private images should stay out of the public domain

As nude pictures have been published of Prince Harry in the past week, the question of to what extent those in the public eye should become private property is to be considered once again.

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The Independent Online

I recently wrote about the case of Tulisa Contostavlos, and her mild triumph in proving that she had no involvement in the release of the sex tape showing her and an ex-partner.

After the private video was released on the internet earlier this year, the High Court ruled in July that her boyfriend (at the time of making the video in 2010) was responsible for causing its publication, without the knowledge or consent of Tulisa. He had entrusted it to someone else who then entered into a number of commercial arrangements in an attempt to make money.

Having previously argued that purely because she is in the public eye, she should not have to forgo her right to privacy, many originally commented that it was her naivety in allowing the video to be recorded that placed herself in a situation where it could be seen by others. They even went on to suggest that the singer did so because she wanted to publicise her single.

A woman has recently been in contact about the case, and told me that it resonated with her because, after suffering severe and prolonged domestic abuse from an ex-partner, she bravely made the decision to leave him when he raped her. As a result of her leaving, he threatened to put explicit images of her online.

"I was luckier than many women who have suffered from this horrendous type of abuse", she said, "in that my ex-partner texted his threat, so the police were able to speak to him on the grounds of harassment."

Although he has now been cautioned, the rape case has been dropped. While struggling with the reality that he would not be convicted for his crime, she described how she still has an ongoing fear of him releasing the pictures, which continues to cause her a great deal of stress.

In the UK, it's not illegal to release explicit images without another person's consent.

This shouldn't be the case. Without a legal deterrent, images can be released into public domain, and indeed remain there for the rest of someone's life. The only preventative measure is the risk of being sued for doing so.

Whether pictures are taken privately, as a naïve mistake, or under threat in a violent relationship; images of a sexual nature should remain private without joint consent of whoever is involved.

If, after a lengthy and expensive legal process, the case is won and payment rewarded - it's just compensation. Cases are not always clear cut, and if destroying someone's esteem and removing their right to privacy isn't a personal deterrent, the courts should be enforcing a legal one.

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