Government intervened after a Private Members Bill did not pass its second reading
As of today (12 April 2019) ‘upskirting’ offenders can be arrested and sent to prison as a new law banning the invasive practice comes into force across England and Wales.
The criminal offence of ‘upskirting’ was created under the Voyeurism Act when it received Royal Assent in February. Police and prosecutors have now updated their guidance to ensure the law is properly enforced. Offenders will face up to two years in jail and being placed on the sex offenders register.
Today marks the culmination of tireless campaigning from Gina Martin and other victims, MPs and charities who worked closely with Ministers to create the new law and protect more victims.
Gina Martin said:
“Today, the Voyeurism Act comes into effect and I’m so happy. Finally we have a fit-for-purpose law that protects against every instance of upskirting – as we should have always had.
“But this is just the beginning. Please raise your voice and report if you are a victim or if you see someone become one – every report builds a picture so we can stop upskirting.”
Previous prosecutions made under the offence of Outraging Public Decency
The practice typically involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing. To date, the behaviour has been successfully prosecuted under the offence of Outraging Public Decency.
However, following victims concerns that not all instances of ‘upskirting’ were covered by current law, the government acted to create a new, specific offence.
The Voyeurism Act outlaws ‘upskirting’ where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm.
This includes instances where culprits say images were just taken ‘for a laugh’ or when paparazzi are caught taking intrusive images.
It creates two new offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The changes will cover England and Wales; ‘upskirting’ is already a specific offence in Scotland.