After years of lobbying the UK government, a bill has passed to allow the offence of Upskirting two years in prison and a place on the sex offender registry giving offenders a criminal record.
Upskirting is the intrusive act to capture a photo underneath someone’s clothes without their consent. The criminal act is commonly found to take place in public areas without someone knowing in order to obtain the picture to sell it on, exploit or use for own sexual gratification, causing distress in the process.
Before, if someone was upskirted the police would have to deny taking further action as it was not considered to be a serious enough law to proceed or take criminal action against.
How did it come to pass?
The campaign came to prominence when Gina Martin, 27 became a victim of upskirting at the London Hyde park festival with her sister. After she reported it to the police, due to the deficiencies in the law, they could not proceed criminal action against the offender as it was not considered a graphic image. The police could only request for the image to be deleted but taking further action was not possible in her defence.
After her exerted efforts bringing forth the petition obtaining over 100,000 signatures, the Voyeurism bill passed from the support of her lawyer, other victims, external help and particularly Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse.
Scotland changed its Voyeurism law in 2009 to make Upskirting a crime, by why has it took England and Wales so long to consider it a criminal offence?
In the UK, the gaps in the law in such a case could only be reported under the ‘outraging public decency’ act, however controversy came as campaigners advocate the behaviour and intent of upskirting is a sexual offence and not a public decency issue. This is because public decency issues must have a sufficient amount of witnesses to implicate prosecution, but this is very difficult to spot with the discreet nature of upskirting.
There has been dispute surrounding the issue, despite receiving support across different parties. Notably Tory MP Christopher Chope rejected the bill last June to criminalise upskirting as according to the Mirror he challenged it as a ‘moral crusade’ and an issue of political correctness. This however, only met with political uproar across parties and Theresa May joined in dispute against the objection.
Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed. I am disappointed the Bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament – with government support – soon.
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) 15 June 2018
Chope, the dinosaur who blocked my ‘upskirting’ bill, just blocked the Female Genital Mutilation bill championed by @NimkoAli and @tonyberkeley1. The government were so embarrassed by him they took the bill on…reckon we can get them to do the same thing this time? @theresa_may
— Wera Hobhouse MP (@Wera_Hobhouse) 8 February 2019
Hobhouse’s dissent to Chope illustrates how the bill changed days after he rejected the upskirting bill. Chope still continues to block more bills but Hobhouse is again strategically using Prime Minister’s May back up though on the issue of FGM.
Nevertheless, as of Februrary 2019, the upskirting bill has passed and received Royal Assent.