After the recent private members bill on ‘upskirting’ was so spectacularly and publicly blocked in parliament recently, the Government has finally stepped in to take action. Partner, Hannah Jones said, “The support for this new law from the public, campaigners, and across parliament shows just how seriously this crime is being taken”.
The highly intrusive practice – colloquially known as ‘upskirting’ – typically involves offenders taking a photograph under a person’s clothing without them knowing, with the intention of recording their genitals or buttocks. Currently, this behaviour is being successfully prosecuted under the offence of Outraging Public Decency. However, following concerns that potentially not all instances of ‘upskirting’ are covered by existing criminal law, the government decided to act.
Initially, ministers supported legislation brought forward by Wera Hobhouse MP to create a specific ‘upskirting’ offence. However, the method used to introduce the bill into parliament was a ‘private members bill’ (a rarely successful way of introducing legislation without the benefit of parliamentary debate). The bill failed to progress in Parliament, following objections raised Sir Christopher Chope MP.
Ministers therefore decided to intervene and adopted the measures as a Government Bill, in order to make sure there will be no delay in getting this new law onto the statute books.
Accordingly, the Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 21 June 2018.
The Bill will insert two new offences into the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for instances where, without consent, a person operates equipment or records an image under another person’s clothing with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks, with or without underwear. The offences will apply where the offender has a motive of either obtaining sexual gratification, or causing humiliation, distress or alarm to the victim.
The Government Bill will build on Wera Hobhouse’s proposals, by ensuing that the most serious offenders are placed on the sex offenders register. The new law would bring the punishment for ‘upskirting’ in line with other existing voyeurism offences, and will see offenders face a maximum of two years in prison.
If you would like legal assistance in relation to sexual harassment or similar, call Hannah Jones on 023 9282 0747 for further information.