Police are dealing with an increasing number of reports of sexually explicit videos and pictures being leaked and shared without the person’s consent, figures reveal.
Cybercrime officers typically handle between three and four reports a year of leaked intimate images – but in 2020 alone there were eight cases and there has been one report for every month of 2021.
The most recent case emerged earlier this month when an explicit video of a woman was shared on WhatsApp and played in public by a group of local football players during a team dinner.
According to police data, of the three reports in 2017, one person was charged in court and given a six-month suspended sentence. In 2018, of the four reports, one person was found guilty and fined €4,500, while two others were acquitted.
Police are still investigating the three reports made in 2019, the eight last year and the two so far in 2021.
The latest victim, a young woman, who is still at school, said she was shocked to learn that private material from her cell phone was being shared without her consent.
She said she was at her grandmother’s house when she found out that a private, intimate video of hers had somehow appeared online – and everyone she knew was sharing it and watching it.
The circulation of the illicit video hit the headlines after Siġġiewi footballers played it during a team dinner at the Kebab Factory. It led to the resignation of head coach Trevor Thomas and the restaurant cutting sponsorship ties with the club.
The public outcry that followed led the Malta Chamber of Psychologists to point out that people’s reactions showed that society was changing and was no longer tolerating such violations.
€5,000 fine and two years imprisonment
Anyone found guilty of circulating such material can face a fine of up to €5,000 and up to two years imprisonment.
A police spokesperson advised anyone who realises they are a victim of this type of crime to immediately file a police report.
“When this material begins to spread, it is very difficult to stop it completely,” the spokesperson said.
“The Cyber Crime Unit preserves the information and assists the investigators to identify the persons behind the spread of the material and take them to court.
“The unit will also try to contact the website administrators to draw their attention and remove the illegal material.”