Dame Vera Baird QC and Marc Jones, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Lead and Deputy Lead on Victims, have called for new legislation to tackle the invasive and appalling practice of “upskirting”.
In response to recent reports and a public petition regarding the practice referred to as “upskirting” whereby a person takes a photograph up a woman’s skirt for their own sexual gratification, the PCCs have written to the Justice Secretary calling for the criminalisation of this behaviour by bringing forward legislation in the forthcoming Courts Bill to update the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Dame Vera Baird QC said:
“The taking of these images is a disgusting practice that can have an extremely distressing impact on victims. In addition, the perpetrator then often compounds these acts by up-loading these images onto the internet.
“The law, as it stands, is far from clear as there is no specific offence relating to the taking of pictures for sexual gratification without the victims knowledge or consent that covers this practice.
“For example, the offence of Voyeurism under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 would often not cover this practice as it requires that the perpetrator observes another person doing a private act, and typically the victims of “upskirting” are just going about their daily business in public.
“Whilst there have been a few successful prosecutions, these often rely on combination of particular circumstances and the use by the police of somewhat arcane public nuisance laws. However, these prosecutions are few and far between because they rely on the police not only being aware of the possibility of using arcane public nuisance laws, but then using them to deal with this modern type of offending.
“We are calling on the Justice Secretary look to include measures in the forthcoming Courts Bill to tackle this appalling practice and update the law to protect victims.”
Marc Jones added:
“We believe that it is more appropriate that this sort of behaviour is characterised as sexual offending. By creating a specific sexual offence covering the practice of “up-skirting” we will be providing the police with more of the tools they need to help bring perpetrators of these appalling acts to justice.
“Making this a specific sexual offence would mean proper recognition of the intent of the perpetrator and the real distress and sense of violation caused to the victim. In addition, it would allow for the range of sentencing and disposal options that are available in respect of sexual offences.
“When it comes to the up-loading of these images onto the internet there are additional and significant issues that also need to be addressed. Whilst it is a specific offence for a person to publish “revenge porn”, as it stands this would not cover the publication of an “up-skirt” photograph as the offence requires that the image is a private sexual photograph or film and that there is an intention to cause distress.
“This is clearly is a gap in the law which does not take into account the impact that the uploading these images has on victims and an example of the law failing to keep pace with the use of technology by offenders.
“An updated law would raise public consciousness around this issue, give police greater clarity over the tools available to pursue prosecutions and send a clear message that these acts are completely unacceptable.”