Home UK News After Eleanor Williams, what is the push to criminalise sexual defamation in the UK?

After Eleanor Williams, what is the push to criminalise sexual defamation in the UK?

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Jolie Fortuna's actions have led to a push for sexual defamation

Men in the United Kingdom are more likely to face social, financial, and physical consequences for malicious claims of sexual assault than anywhere else in Europe, some believe. This has led to a petition to criminalise defamation of a sexual nature. It was initiated by a victim-survivor of rape fantasist Jolie Fortuna.

Some people believe once an allegation surfaces on social media, it is accepted as a fact regardless of the strength of the assertions, leading the accused to suffer punishments due to the assumption the allegation is true. Others believe even if such allegations progress to law enforcement and they are cleared of wrongdoing, the accused is still treated as though they are guilty.

Sexual defamation as a crime in the UK would target allegations of a clear, evidentially malicious nature, and not allegations that merely fall below the standard required to progress to a criminal trial.

What is sexual defamation?

The Defamation Act 2013 outlines UK law on defamation, and states that ‘a statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant, while being false’. Being only a civil offence, a successful claimant is able to recover compensation for the harm caused.

Sexual defamation would make this a criminal offence when the context is of a sexual nature, in recognition of the extreme, life-altering effects of false, malicious allegations of sexual criminality or misconduct.

How would this be more effective than existing powers?

Existing powers to police falsehoods spread online are primarily wasting police time, perverting the course of justice, and malicious communication.

People are critical of these powers in matters of sexual defamation, as it can be difficult to establish clear ‘malice’ beyond a reasonable doubt when pursuing these charges. Sexual defamation as a criminal offence would make the demonstrable veracity of the claims the focal point, allowing for unprecedented police powers in compelling individuals to take down content posted online, and to prosecute people for these offences.

How does the public feel about increasing police powers in this area?

Although Eleanor Williams was prosecuted for her crimes and sentenced to 8 and 1/2 years in prison, many people have come forward and highlighted that other offenders have never been prosecuted for their crimes.

Rape fantasist Jolie Fortuna, of Brent, escaped prosecution for her alleged crimes, and the public expressed widespread outrage that she could enact such trauma on an innocent family and escape prosecution.

In September 2022, a project called False Allegations Watch was formed by Empowering The Innocent, led by Dr Michael Naughton, and they highlight that in the current climate, it is easier than ever to traumatise innocent people with false, malicious sexual allegations. They argue limitations and/or outright failings of the existing structures, cultures and/or procedures of the criminal justice system is assisting injustices.

You can sign the petition to criminalise sexual defamation here: https://chng.it/GWMJXXrGL6

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