Govern­ment backs bill to create crim­i­nal of­fence of ‘up­skirt­ing’

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Owen Bow­cott Le­gal af­fairs correspondent

“Up­skirt­ing” – tak­ing sur­rep­ti­tious, sex­u­ally in­tru­sive pho­to­graphs – is to be­come a spe­cific crim­i­nal of­fence pun­ish­able by up to two years in prison. Lucy Frazer, a jus­tice min­is­ter, will con­firm to­day that the govern­ment will back a private mem­ber’s bill in­tro­duced by the Lib­eral Demo­crat MP Wera Hob­house out­law­ing the prac­tice.

In the most se­ri­ous cases, those con­victed of se­cretly pho­tograph­ing un­der­neath some­one’s cloth­ing with­out their con­sent in Eng­land and Wales will be placed on the sex of­fend­ers regis­ter.

Such in­va­sive be­hav­iour is pros­e­cuted un­der ei­ther the of­fence of out­rag­ing public de­cency or as a crime of voyeurism un­der the Sex­ual Of­fences Act. But not all in­stances of up­skirt­ing are cov­ered by the law.

One wo­man, Gina Martin, started an on­line cam­paign for the prac­tice to be crim­i­nalised after po­lice de­clined to pros­e­cute a man she ac­cused of snap­ping pic­tures of her on his phone at a mu­sic festival in Hyde Park, Lon­don, last sum­mer. She had been wear­ing un­der­wear and the pho­to­graph was there­fore not deemed to be il­le­gal.

Frazer said: “This be­hav­iour is a hideous in­va­sion of pri­vacy, which leaves vic­tims feel­ing de­graded and dis­tressed. By mak­ing ‘up­skirt­ing’ a spe­cific of­fence, we are send­ing a clear mes­sage that this be­hav­iour will not be tol­er­ated.”

Martin said: “Al­most a year ago, I started my cam­paign to make up­skirt­ing a sex­ual of­fence after I was tar­geted … And now, the re­sult of all that hard work is that women and girls who needed this law changed are now be­ing heard by those in power.”

Among re­cent pros­e­cu­tions was that of An­drew Macrae, who was vi­cepres­i­dent of the tick­et­ing com­pany Live Na­tion. He had 50,000 im­ages of strangers for his sex­ual grat­i­fi­ca­tion. A po­lice of­fi­cer caught him plac­ing a pen-shaped cam­era in a lap­top bag be­tween a wo­man’s legs at Clapham Junc­tion sta­tion.

Prof Clare McG­lynn of Durham Univer­sity, an ex­pert on the law on sex­ual of­fences, said: “The crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of ‘up­skirt­ing’ … is a wel­come first step to­wards a more com­pre­hen­sive law pro­tect­ing vic­tims of all forms of im­age-based sex­ual abuse, which also in­cludes so-called ‘re­venge porn’.

“We hope to work with the govern­ment to strengthen what is pro­posed in order to pro­vide a truly ef­fec­tive de­ter­rent,” she said.

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