West Indies and T&T batsman Lendl Simmons is being sued by a former girlfriend for posting intimate photographs of her on social networking sites after their relationship ended. The woman, an account executive, is seeking compensation from Simmons for breaching the confidentiality of their relationship by broadcasting the images, taken by him during a sexual encounter, without her permission.
Whatever the outcome, the lawsuit will be considered a landmark case as it is the first time an act of internet “revenge porn” has been litigated in T&T. Currently, there is no specific law which makes the act a criminal offence, thus forcing the woman to file a civil lawsuit against Simmons. According to her witness statement filed before High Court Judge Frank Seepersad, the woman is claiming that she and Simmons started the relationship when they met at a party in 2013.
After a year-and-a-half together, the woman said she broke up with Simmons after she discovered that he was engaged to be married while involved with her. The woman admitted that she then contacted Simmons’ fiance at the time, now his current wife, to inform her of the situation.
In response, she claims Simmons allegedly used several mobile apps, including Viber, to send photos of sexual acts they took while together to her former boyfriend and to several of his friends, including his local and regional team-mates—Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard—who are expected to be summoned by the woman as witnesses in the trial. Besides damaging her reputation, the woman is claiming the release of the images also caused her significant emotional distress.
Simmons is denying he was in a relationship with the woman which warranted the level of confidentiality she is claiming. Instead, through his lawyers, he is alleging their encounters were strictly sexual. On June 5 last year, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh granted the woman an injunction against Simmons, ordering him to delete the images and to refrain from distributing them further.
Details of the case had initially been deemed as confidential, with only the parties’ lawyers being allowed to attend pervious hearings. But the seal over case was lifted when it was transfered to Seepersad, who will preside over the trial. Seepersad held a brief case-management conference in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, where he met lawyers for the two parties to discuss the case.
Simmons, who played for Mumbai Indians in last year’s Indian Premier League, was not present for the hearing as he is with the West Indies team in Australia preparing for the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup. The woman is being represented by Naveen Maraj and Christian Chandler, while Ken Wright appeared for Simmons. The case comes up for another case management conference on March 23.
Revenge porn is defined as the distribution of a sexual image of someone without their permission and with the intent to cause them distress. The issue has received significant international attention since the practice became popular with the advent of numerous photo-sharing and social media apps over the past few years. With lawmakers being unable to keep up with rapidly evolving technology, many offenders have gone unpunished.
Last November, 21-year-old Luke King became the first person in the United Kingdom (UK) to be jailed for engaging in revenge porn. Like T&T, the UK does not have any specific legislation which outlaws the practice. As such, King was prosecuted under that country’s harassment laws for failing to adhere to two previous warnings from police when he decided to post a nude image of his former girlfriend on instant messaging app Whatsapp.
The UK Parliament is debating the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill 2013–14, which makes revenge porn an offence punishable by a maximum jail term of two years.