Government backs bill to create criminal offence of ‘upskirting’
“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.