Prime Minister’s intervention brings ‘upskirting’ law a step closer
A Bill making ‘upskirting’ a criminal offence in England and Wales is to be introduced to Parliament today (June 21), just six days after an MP’s attempt to change the law was controversially blocked.
Despite the Government backing Wera Hobhouse’s Private Members Bill (PMB) and receiving widespread public support, Sir Christopher Chope used Parliamentary procedure to obstruct its progress on June 15.
Following the intervention of Prime Minister Theresa May, the Government has adopted the Bill with an additional measure to ensure offenders are placed on the sex offenders’ register.
Upskirting typically involves offenders taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing and is currently prosecuted under the offence of Outraging Public Decency. However, the Ministry of Justice says not all instances are covered by existing criminal law so the Government decided to act.
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: “The support for this new law from the public, campaigners, and across parliament shows just how seriously this crime is being taken.
“Upskirting is a humiliating and degrading practice. We will ensure this Bill becomes law as soon as possible to protect more victims and properly punish offenders.”
The new law would bring the punishment for upskirting in line with other existing voyeurism offences and capture instances where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress or alarm.
A summary conviction would carry a sentence of up to one year in prison and/or a fine. And a more serious offence, tried in the Crown Court, would carry a sentence of up to two years.
The second reading of the Bill is expected to take place before Parliament’s summer recess.
The changes will just cover England and Wales as upskirting is already a specific offence in Scotland.
Meanwhile, ministers have been urged to outlaw the “distressing” practice of creating fake pornographic images using pictures of real people in the same Bill.
Clare McGlynn, a law professor at Durham University specialising in the regulation of pornography and image-based sexual abuse, has called on the Government to take the opportunity to implement the criminalisation of ‘deepfake’ images.
Ms McGlynn believes it would be relatively easy to extend the upskirting Bill in light of the mental toll it takes on victims, and cited similar legislation in New South Wales, Australia, as proof of how criminalisation could come into effect.
Deepfake is an ever-growing form of online pornographic abuse, which initially saw the faces of celebrities being digitally imposed on bodies for pornographic content. Now with more apps available to make the modifications, it is increasingly easier for ordinary people to be targeted.