SCOTLAND may have been seen as being late in bringing in laws to protect people from so-called revenge porn.

A hard-hitting campaign which is in full swing in Scotland warns that offenders now face five years in jail - but legislation has taken two years longer to materialise here than in England and Wales.

An outcry over the malicious disclosure of sexually explicit photos and videos on the internet has been growing since the issue first came to public attention.

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The concept has its roots in bitter exes submitting pictures to porn magazines in the 1980s.

But in the age of smartphones and social media research shows that revenge porn has become ever more prevalent.

HeraldScotland: The Lord Advocate Rt Hon Frank Mulholland QC

Three years ago in Scotland then Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC held talks with then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill over new legislation to deal with the crime following concerns that many revenge porn cases were going unreported.

While people could be prosecuted for revenge porn under laws like breach of the peace and the Communications Act, the Crown had then identified just five completed cases -- and feared that there were legal loopholes.

The following years in England and Wales revenge porn became a specific offence in Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, meaning that the non-consensual disclosure of private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress was prohibited.

The mere intention of causing distress to the victim would lead to the offence being proved.

But there have been worries about stringent the English offence is as figures obtained last year showed that 61% of reported offences in England and Wales resulted in no action being taken against the alleged perpetrator. Among the main reasons cited by police include a lack of evidence or the victim withdrawing support for any action.

While landmark legislation in Scotland tackling the malicious sending of naked pictures came into force in July, the offence as it stands north of the border, is seen by some as far tougher, and also snares those who may claim they were only being reckless in their indelicate disclosure.

This would cover even the discovery of intimate images of someone unknown on the hard drive of a second hand laptop.

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 even take a more generous view of what passes for an offensive image.

The law south of the border believes only the genitals and pubic area qualify as sexual.

In Scotland an intimate situation includes where the “genitals, buttocks or breasts are exposed or covered only with underwear”.

The mere threat to share, publish or distribute private intimate images of another person is now also a criminal offence.

The maximum jail sentence in Scotland is also three years longer than that south of the border.

Research carried out before the law came in showed that of 1137 surveyed adults in Scotland more than three-quarters (78 per cent) believed it should be illegal for someone to share an intimate image they have been sent.

A total of 82 per cent said it should be illegal for someone to share an intimate image they have taken of their partner without their consent.

HeraldScotland:

The Not Yours To Share campaign initiative aims to hammer home the message that revenge porn in Scotland is unacceptable and illegal, and features posters of a naked man and woman with police crime tape covering their private parts.

The campaign clip contains the message: "Share, or threaten to share, intimate images without consent and you could get five years in prison."