Statement of Leigh Nicol regarding Gwent Police Officers sharing non-consensual intimate images
Updated: Nov 26, 2022
This weekend I had the huge privilege to be on Sky’s Big Ideas Live 2022 and shared a stage with the incredible Information Commissioner, John Edwards and Sky’s superb presenter Sarah-Jane Mee.
We discussed Trolls, Bullies and Hacks: I told my story, John talked about the ICO’s work and what measures will be put in place in future. It was amazing and I left thinking ‘one day we will get there’.
During this conversation I discussed my own experience of intimate image abuse and in going to the Police at the time. They were unable to offer much practical support but they did offer some emotional support and empathy to the pain which I was suffering.
On Sunday though, following a Sunday Times investigation by David Collins, I read with horror an article from Wales Online about the WhatsApps of several Gwent Police Officers, many of them serving, which included the sharing of nude images of a female sportswoman (not me) alongside racist, sexist and misogynistic comments.
Intimate image abuse is one of the most vile invasions of privacy. The consequences last forever and it led me, three years ago, to take a whole year out of the sport that I love and it took me to the darkest places imaginable.
What exacerbated my pain was the knowledge, regularly brought to my attention, that many many people were revelling in my anguish, sharing the images not just online but in WhatsApp groups. For every person that forwarded on, shared and laughed at my humiliation my pain increased and my desire to take myself away, forever, increased too.
I see every person that gleefully shared my images as being a part of the criminal pile on that nearly took me from this earth.
Every day that I walk into a new room of people knowing that they may have watched, liked, laughed and joked at my stolen content, and most importantly at the expense of my privacy, causes me pain that not many could even begin to understand.
When I approached my local Police force at my lowest moment I was disappointed that there was little that they could do but I was grateful at least that they showed me some human empathy. I campaign now because I don’t want others to go through what I went through. To think that this might happen to another young girl, just like me, makes me feel sick. To think that this young girl might not seek the help of the Police or may think that the Police Officer she sees will have the same mentality as these Gwent Officers, that her humiliation is all good fun for the WhatsApp group, leaves me angry and despondent.
If you have ever behaved like these officers – believing that revelling in someone else’s misery in your WhatsApp groups is fair game, then shame on you and, take it from me, your actions have huge consequences for victims. I know many of the WhatsApp groups that targeted me.
But if you are in a position of responsibility, a Police Officer no less, and you behave with this criminal mindset then, quite simply, you are not fit for the job.
WhatsApp is not a safe haven to act despicably and I hope the Chief Constable of Gwent Police Pam Kelly will act decisively to take action against these officers and try to restore the trust of the public.