Damages Awarded To The Victim Of “Sexting”

Whillock was a member of staff at the The New School, an independent Special Needs school near Sevenoaks and abused his position by encouraging the victim, a teenage female pupil, to text him intimate pictures of herself.

The BBC has reported that for the first time a victim of “sexting” has been awarded compensation in a Civil Court. The unnamed victim brought a civil claim for damages following the successful conviction of William Whillock.

Whillock was a member of staff at the The New School, an independent Special Needs school near Sevenoaks and abused his position by encouraging the victim, a teenage female pupil, to text him intimate pictures of herself.

The claim was brought on the basis that Whillock’s manipulation of the girl into sending the pictures would inevitably cause the psychological harm that she went on to suffer. The victim was reportedly awarded £25,000.

The decision to award compensation has been described as “ground breaking” and has led to concerns that there may now be many more such claims by the victims of sexting. The NSPCC, quoted in the BBC report, sounded this note of caution;

“It’s vital that there are serious punishments that deter offenders from committing these crimes against young people.

“However, whilst damages could help discourage potential abusers, there is a danger that young people could just use this as a way to get cash by suing one another.

“It’s important for victims to get justice.

“But it’s equally important to educate children about not sharing this kind of explicit material.”

In our view the Courts will be wary of making decisions which could open the floodgates to a large number of malicious claims for compensation. In circumstances such as those in this case however, where there has been a serious breach of trust or where deliberate harm is intended, it seems that this is a significant extension of the rights of victims.

The NSPCC provide some helpful advice on the subject of sexting generally here.

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