UPSKIRTING has been in the news a lot lately, as Gina Martin campaigned to make it a crime as others joined her to speak out about the invasive act.
But what exactly does it involve and when will it become a criminal offence?
What is upskirting?
Upskirting is the act of taking a photograph of underneath a person’s skirt without their consent.
It is often performed in a public place such as on public transport or on an escalator, with crowds of people making it harder to spot people taking these photos.
A large proportion of women are targeted in places such as nightclubs, restaurants and shops.
Being victim to such an incident can cause emotional distress for a long time after it has happened.
What is the law around upskirting?
Upskirting is to be become a specific criminal offence in England and Wales – it is already a criminal offence in Scotland.
If you catch somebody doing it, and inform the authorities, they can request that the image is deleted, but no further prosecution is possible.
In Scotland, upskirting is an illegal offence, and has been since 2010 when it was listed under the definition of voyeurism.
Victims and police are only able to pursue offences of voyeurism and indecency, with a Freedom of Information request made by the Press Association revealing that the police have pursued 78 offences related to upskirting since 2015 – but only 11 led to alleged offenders being charged.
Avon and Somerset police have said that one incident involved a 10 year old girl in 2015, but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
In July 2017, Gina Martin experienced a man taking an upskirt photo of her at British Summer Time music festival, and went straight to the police.
When they closed her case, she began a petition to get it reopened – and she gained over 70,000 signatures.
She, along with other campaigners, hope to have the laws amended so that upskirt photos are listed as a sexual offence.
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Why was the bill making it a criminal offence blocked?
A number of MPs have pushed for upskirting to become a criminal offence – however a bill criminalising the act was blocked in June 2018 by MP Sir Christopher Chope in the House of Commons.
MP Maria Miller, who chairs the women and equalities select committee, has said that more must be done to stop the “horrific crime”.
Campaigners have been calling for clearer laws on image-based sex abuse – or revenge porn.
Due to the legal grey area, they say that the true scale of the problem is likely to be bigger than people think, with police facing difficulties when it comes to logging and investigating cases.
The Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer, confirmed on Friday 15 June 2018, that the government would back a bill to outlaw the practice in England and Wales.
The most serious cases will see those convicted added to the sex offender’s register and could be punishable by up to two years in jail.
Despite Sir Christopher blocking the law, the PM and the Government have made clear they still intend to criminalise it.
The offence of upskirting will now be rendered as criminal after the bill was passed in Parliament.
It will receive its Royal Assent from Her Majesty The Queen in the Spring.
This has been accepted by the House of Lords and will mean offenders will face up to two years in jail.