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Student charged with 'revenge porn' for using topless photo of ex in art project

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An art student who was charged under revenge porn laws for using a photograph of her ex-boyfriend’s torso in a university project has had her case thrown out of court.  

Lauren Smith, 26, was arrested and charged in 2017 with disclosing a private, sexual photograph with intent to cause distress, after her ex-boyfriend recognised the photo of himself and subsequently reported it to police.

Stock image of male torso

Ms Smith, a student at the University of Lincoln, denied the charge which saw her facing up to two years in prison. She had included the photo in a project which was awarded a first before publishing it to her artwork Facebook page.

The original photo was of a male’s full naked body, however, Ms Smith heavily cropped it so that the head and genitals were no longer visible. Despite the editing, her ex-boyfriend could tell it was his body and said he felt ‘embarrassed’.

The case was thrown out, however, when the prosecution decided to offer no evidence after the judge said he had “real misgivings” about the prosecution's case and arguments.  

Judge Philip St.John-Stevens told the court the purpose of the revenge porn law is to prosecute those who share sexually explicit images in order to cause distress, something which could only be caused if the subject was identifiable by others.

In this instance, he explained how he felt the unnamed man was not identifiable to anyone but himself, due to the editing of the photo.

"This image has had everything done to it to ensure the identity of the person isn't revealed. Anyone looking at this could not identify the person in that photograph," he said.

Following this, Prosecutor Oliver Dunkin said she would not be submitting any evidence, addressing the court she said: "We were all in agreement that now we have consideration of the art project and looking at the case properly in the round, we cannot put this forward to a jury."

A formal ‘not guilty’ verdict was then given by the judge who also awarded Ms Smith travel costs totalling £240.50.

Speaking afterwards, a relieved Ms Smith said: “I am glad the offence is there because people do do that (post revenge porn).

“But mine just wasn’t like that. I was just making art and this case is not what the offence is there for.”




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