I’m a Professor of Law at Durham University in the UK with over twenty years of experience influencing and shaping law reform. My particular expertise is in the legal regulation of pornography, sexual violence and image-based sexual abuse (including taking and sharing intimate images without consent such as ‘upskirting’, deepfakes and cyberflashing). In 2020, I was appointed an Honorary QC in recognition of my work championing women’s equality in the legal profession and shaping new criminal laws on extreme pornography and image-based sexual abuse.
Together with my colleagues, and in partnership with policy-makers and members of the voluntary sector, I’ve played a central role in the adoption of new laws across the UK criminalizing the non-consensual taking or sharing of intimate images , including ‘upskirting’ and non-consensual sharing of intimate images, as well as new laws targeting the possession of extreme pornography. I’ve given evidence before the UK Parliaments on many issues, including recently regarding the Online Safety Bill, before the Northern Ireland Assembly on downblousing and upskirting and the New Zealand Justice Committee regarding intimate image abuse. My current work is focussing on cyberflashing and the urgent need for law reform. My research has been shared with academic and policy audiences across Europe, Australia, Asia and North America and I regularly contribute to media and public debates.
On this website, you can find information about my research and policy work, including access to my academic articles, as well as links to blogs, policy and briefing documents and other media work. A summary of my current work and activities are below and on my Durham University webpage.
Cyberflashing – sending penis images to someone without their consent – is a sexual intrusion and violation that while alarmingly common is not clearly against the criminal law in England & Wales. My recent book on cyberflashing (with Kelly Johnson) examines the prevalence and harms of cyberflashing and makes the case for a new criminal law. You can read our policy briefing which summarises the research, as well as my blog in The Independent on why the latest Law Commission proposals do not go far enough. I have given oral evidence to the UK Parliament’s committee reviewing the Online Safety Bill, recommending a new offence, with more details in my written evidence.
My work with colleagues has helped to shape public debates and law reform. My most recent research – the report Shattering Lives and Myths – written with colleagues from across the UK, Australia and New Zealand identifies some of the continuing failings of laws and policies in challenging these behaviours.
My research in this area (with Erika Rackley) developed the concept of image-based sexual abuse to better describe and conceptualise the creation and distribution of intimate images without consent, including fake porn and upskirting. I discussed my research and recommendations in oral evidence before the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee , as well as recommending comprehensive law reforms before Parliament’s Women & Equalities Select Committee. I actively participate in policy and political debates, with my comments and recommendations on ‘upskirting’ law reform discussed widely, including here on the BBC, the harms of photoshopped images and ‘deepfakes’ raised in the Guardian and the problems with current laws focussing only on non-consensual distribution of images (such as where a malicious ex-partner shares) here in the Daily Mail and ITV news.
I regularly engaged in public debate, recommending comprehensive laws, suggesting that sharing intimate images without consent is a form of sexual assault and that sexual offending is not about sexual arousal. I have also addressed policy-makers on these issues across Australia, Europe and North America.
I am also an expert in the development of rape law and policy, investigating the use of restorative justice in cases of sexual violence and domestic abuse. I have worked with survivors to understand their perspectives on justice, developing the concept of kaleidoscopic justice together with Nicole Westmarland. My work has also focused on feminist activism and strategy, particularly the granting of anonymity to rape defendants and the definition of torture in human rights law. My British Academy funded conference Rethinking Rape Law resulted in the publication of a book, co-edited with Vanessa Munro: Rethinking Rape Law: international and comparative perspectives
As part of my work seeking greater fairness and justice in rape trials, I’ve undertaken research into current laws on the use of sexual history evidence. My policy briefing summarises my main recommendations for change and my blog in the Huffington Post responds to the Government’s refusal to change the law and argues that reform is still needed.
My research on extreme pornography justifies the regulation of some forms of pornography on the basis of its cultural harm (with Erika Rackley). This work influenced law reform campaigns which led to new criminal laws in England & Wales and Scotland. The impact of this research was recognised as world-leading in the recent Government review of research impact (view the case study here). My work has been widely debated including in The Guardian, the Observer, the Independent and on the BBC. I have discussed this research on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour and Law in Action (see also research briefing). My research advances liberal justifications for pornography regulation, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.