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‘Upskirting’ to be made a criminal offence

11 March 2019

Article by: Shaheen Rahman


An issue which has received substantial press coverage in recent weeks is one of ‘upskirting’. Under English law there are no specific offences of upskirting (despite it being an offence in Scotland) and such cases have been prosecuted in the past as offences of outraging public decency. This issue was first brought to public attention by the anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Martin, after allegedly becoming a victim of ‘upskirting’ when two men took a picture up her skirt at a festival. What became clear was that both the offences of outraging public decency or voyeurism did not quite cover the elements of the act of ‘upskirting’.

The new law will make ‘upskirting’ a specific criminal offence, putting offenders on the sex offenders register (if certain conditions are met). The government brought forward the Voyeurism Bill last year after a Private Members Bill failed to pass its second reading, and the legislation has since been passed by both Houses of Parliament. The new law bans the practice, which typically involves offenders taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing, to deter perpetrators and aims to better protect victims and bring more offenders to justice.

Of course it is important that where a valid defence is to be raised, then representations are made earlier on including the investigation stage.

The Voyeurism Bill outlaws ‘upskirting’ where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. It creates two new offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

In short, the use of equipment beneath the clothing of another person or recording an image, and if certain conditions are met, could be an offence.

In the Crown Court, an individual could be facing up to 2 years imprisonment for a single charge.

Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer, commentated: ‘Those who commit such a degrading act will face prison, and victims’ complaints will be dealt with seriously’.

If you have been arrested or invited by the Police for questioning or are anticipating an investigation, then call our specialist team who will be able to advise you further.

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