Upskirting to become a criminal offence in England and Wales

Image: Leah Kelley/Pexels

Friday, June 15, 2018

The government has pledged to make upskirting a criminal offence in England and Wales.

Perpetrators who take photos under women’s skirts without their knowledge will now face up to two years in jail and be added to the sex offenders’ register.

Upskirting has been an offence in Scotland since 2010, under voyeurism laws.

Read more: How upskirting makes women victims of non-consensual porn

Gina Martin was a victim of upskirting last year, and began a campaign to make it illegal.

She has succeeded in getting the government to commit to making upskirting illegal after support from justice minister Lucy Frazer MP.

Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse tabled a private member’s bill to enshrine the offence in law, and ministers have agreed to support it.

Ms Martin wrote on Twitter that she was "bursting" to share the news. 

"They are passionately backing my campaign and our bill!" she said.

"The type of activity that will be caught by upskirting can be prosecuted under publicorder offences or voyuerism," Frazer told talkRADIO.

"But there’s a gap in the law, where upskirting doesn’t always fall under one of those offences."

In an op-ed for Refinery29 about her experience of upskirting at a music festival last year, and the sexist responses she received at the time, she wrote: "...last summer and a man shoves his hand between my legs at a music festival and takes pictures of my vagina without me knowing.

"A good chunk of the responses I get from people I tell are, 'You should have worn trousers'. 

"I should have worn trousers. On a 30 degree day, in summer, at 26 years old, standing in a field and, by chance, next to a cretin of a man, all of a sudden it was my fault. I should have worn trousers."

“There are two offences upskirting fitted under, but the photo had to be taken in a private place,” gender justice specialist Natalie Collins told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

“There’s a very old law called outraging public decency, but more than two people would need to see the image for it to be a public decency offence. She managed to grab the phone off the guy before two people saw it, so it wasn’t a public decency offence.”

"What happened to Gina Martin was traumatic, but to be told there was nothing she could do about it... the added trauma, the injustice. When she started the campaign she began to receive rape threats."

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "We welcome the Government taking decisive action to make upskirting a criminal offence. This form of abuse is painful and humiliating for victims and often has a devastating impact on all aspects of their lives.

"We hope that this new criminal offence will be another step forward in challenging the prevailing sexist attitudes and behaviours in our society that underpin violence against women and girls. Domestic abuse does not happen in a cultural vacuum."