High Court awards £97,000 in damages in landmark decision on “image-based abuse”


FGX -vGaunt [2023] EWHC 419 (KB)

A High Court judge has ordered a man to pay damages of £97,041.61 after he secretly filmed his partner naked and posted the images on a pornographic graphic website without her consent. The judgment is the first of its kind on the issue of 'image-based abuse', also known as 'revenge porn', in the civil courts.

The claimant "FGX", a 49-year-old woman, had been in a romantic relationship with the defendant since March 2016. In October 2017, the claimant discovered a microscopic camera in the bathroom of their home and found out that the defendant had filmed her while she showered and while she slept topless. The defendant had then uploaded these images to a pornographic website for profit.

In criminal proceedings in September 2020, the defendant was convicted of voyeurism and other sexual offences, received a two-year suspended sentence, and was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for ten years.

The claimant later brought civil proceedings for breach of an obligation of trust and confidence in relation to intimate and personal matters. The defendant did not respond to the claim and the claimant obtained judgment in default in relation to liability in June 2021.

At a damages assessment hearing, the court found that the claimant had suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a relapse of mixed anxiety and depressive disorder as a result of the defendant's actions. The court accepted evidence that the images were still online, which continued to cause the defendant "immense distress".

The court awarded the claimant damages of £60,000 for intentional infliction of injury and misuse of private information. The defendant was also ordered to pay special damages of £37,041.61 for the costs of psychiatric treatment, therapy, and medication, and the costs of removing the images from the internet.

This case is demonstrative of the devastating impact that image-based abuse can have on victims. We can hope that the size of the damages award against the defendant, and the publicity that this case has received, will help to deter others from repeating the defendant's actions.

The decision will help legal advisors of future claimants to estimate damages with greater certainty. That increased certainty is likely to lead to more claims being brought, particularly where a potential defendant has already been convicted in a criminal court.

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