Voyeurism (Offences) (No.2) Bill

Written evidence submitted by Victim Support (VOB06)

About Victim Support

Victim Support is an independent charity dedicated to supporting victims of crime and traumatic incidents in England and Wales. Our purpose is to provide specialist help and services to support people to cope and recover to the point where they feel they are back on track with their lives.

Background and impact

‘Upskirting’ is the term used to describe the act of taking photos or videos beneath a victims’ clothing – primarily up a female’s skirt – of their genitals, buttocks or underwear without their consent. It usually takes place in a public place such as a park, on public transport or in a nightclub. It is an appalling violation of the victims’ dignity and privacy and can leave victims feeling violated, distressed and anxious. It can result in them changing their routines or the way that they dress. Victims fear that their personal details and images will be shared online, and that friends, family and co-workers may be able to find them.

Despite the egregious nature of upskirting there is currently no specific offence of upskirting in England and Wales. While in certain circumstances upskirting can be covered by the offence of voyeurism or outraging public decency not all cases are covered by current criminal law. This gap in the law is highlighted by the recent high profile case of a woman who fell victim to upskirting at a music festival in London. Gina Martin caught a man taking photographs of her crotch up her skirt but despite taking the evidence to the police they declined to charge the perpetrator, telling her that the man’s actions were not a criminal offence as she was wearing underwear. [1]

"The male police officer was apologetic - he told me, ‘Unfortunately, I've had to look at the picture. It shows more than you'd like… but it's not graphic. So there's not much we can do because you can't see anything bad. I'm going to be honest - you might not hear much from us.’" Gina Martin [2]

The lack of a specific criminal offence means that reports are not properly captured by the police and therefore it is difficult to measure the true scale of upskirting. FOI requests by the Press Association found that only 15 of the 44 police forces in England and Wales recorded allegations of upskirting in the past two years. In total 78 incidents were reported, but only 11 resulted in suspects being charged under existing laws. [3] The actual number of upskirting offences perpetrated are likely to be significantly higher than the number reported.

Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill

Victim Support strongly welcomes the Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill. It is a welcome step forward and finally closes the gap in the law which means that not all cases of upskirting can currently be prosecuted. However, we strongly recommend that the proposed Bill be strengthened in the following two ways:

1) Motivation – As currently drafted, the Bill makes upskirting an offence only in cases where photos or videos are taken for the purposes of a) sexual gratification, either for themselves or for the person they are showing the photos to or b) to humiliate, distress or alarm the victim. This means that those taking upskirt photos or videos for other purposes - such as for financial gain, for non-sexual enjoyment or because they find it funny - would not be committing an offence. Instead, whether an offence took place should be determined by whether or not the victim consented and whether the images were intentional; if someone intentionally takes a photo or video of someone’s genitals beneath their clothing without their consent that should be an offence, regardless of their motivation. The harm caused to the victim is substantial, despite what the offender’s motivation may be. A justifiable defence can apply in cases where the photo or video was taken unintentionally or for the purposes of preventing, detecting or investigating crime. Without including other motivations in the Bill, there will continue to be a gap in cases that can be prosecuted.

2) Disclosure – The Bill does not currently cover the disclosure of upskirting images or videos, which Victim Support sees as a gap in the legislation. We urge the Committee to examine making disclosing the offending images/videos an offence, where the disclosure is made intentionally and where the person is aware that the images/videos were taken without consent. This would bring this offence in line with other image based offences, such as revenge pornography (Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015) where disclosure is an offence.

10 July 2018

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-40861875

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-40861875

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/upskirt-photos-law-illegal-criminal-offence-needed-campaigners-statistics-10-girls-children-police-a8218491.html


Prepared 12th July 2018