I Made A Freedom of Information Request About Revenge Porn Prosecutions, and What I Learned Will Be Mildly Diverting If You’re Interested in This Sort of Thing

Last month, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published a report on Violence Against Women.  It received significant pick-up in the media due to the high number of revenge porn prosecutions that have been brought since a new law was introduced.

I made a Freedom of Information request to the CPS, to ask whether they could tell me how many of the victims in the cases they prosecuted were women. I assumed they would have this information to hand.

I received a reply to my request today. It turns out that they do not keep track of that information

This may seem like a strange thing to complain about. But it’s important that our public agencies and institutions are rigourous in their reporting and their data collection.  These small gaps of data and minor leaps of logic should be called out, lest those institutions fall into bad habits and begin making bigger ommssions and assumptions.

Crucially, the CPS fails to collect data in other kinds of social media prosecutions too. This House of Lords Communications Committee report into social media and criminal offences noted the gap and made a clear recommendation.

19. The Director of Public Prosecutions publishes statistics which show by year the number of offences charged and reaching a first hearing, by reference to the statutory provision creating the offence. There are at present no statistics which indicate the balance of offences committed online and by traditional means, nor of the number of offences reported. We have anecdotal evidence as to the scale of the problem, but few facts. It would be useful for such statistics to be compiled.

The emphasis was in the original.

All over politics, there is a live discussion about the use of data to make better decisions. Additional statistics for social media prosecutions are now, in my view, essential. They would help the CPS, government and the public form a better view on whether the  laws that govern online expression are working as they should and whether the right cases are being prosecuted.

I also Tweeted this consideration:

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