Wera Hobhouse has challenged the government over their approach to tackling ‘upskirting’.
Upskirting is the practice of taking a photo from beneath someone without their knowledge or consent. It is not currently a specific criminal offence, a reality that has caused a significant public outcry.
It has hit headlines recently as a result of Gina Martin’s campaign after falling victim to the practice last summer, and Wera Hobhouse’s private members bill, which would criminalise the offence. ITV recently conducted a poll of over 21,000 people, 96% of whom supported making it a specific criminal offence.
Rory Stewart, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice said:
“Firstly I’d like to pay tribute to the Honourable Member for the work she has done on this incredibly important issue. Upskirting is a disgusting and horrifying offence. There is a great deal more we can do to educate the Police and the prosecuting authorities on the ability to prosecute it at the moment under the outraging public decency act, but we’re also looking very actively at the private members bill proposed by the Honourable Member.”
Wera then asked why the Minister thinks that the law is currently adequate.
“The formal answer to that is of course, as the honourable member is aware, is that this is a decision made independently by the Crown Prosecution Service, but there are a number of laws under which we can currently secure successful criminal conviction. Outraging Public Decency, the 2015 act, and in the case of a child, the Indecent Images Act...but there is clearly more that we need to do to think about digital images in the current age, and we’re very happy to sit down and continue discussing this bill.”
However, the current law doesn’t cover upskirting in many circumstances. Outraging public decency relies on other people being able to see the photo, not the act itself. Voyeurism laws fall down if the victim isn’t in a private place; there’s nothing to protect victims in crowds for example.
Sue Mount Stevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner said:
“This cannot be acceptable in this day and age. Taking a photograph up someone's skirt; if it wasn’t so serious it would be considered quite laughable, but it really is serious and I think we need to make it a specific crime right here, right now.”
She joins Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones, who called for upskirting to be a specific offence last summer.
Wera Hobhouse said:
“I welcome the government’s decision to consider my bill, however, the fact of the matter is the longer this government takes to change the law, the more victims there will be.
“It is simply not the case that the law is adequate as it currently stands and to state further education is the silver bullet to help police prosecute is laughable. There has been clear calls from the police and the public to make upskirting a specific criminal offence.
“The law is already in place in Scotland, I do not see why people in England and Wales do not deserve the same protection in the eyes of the law. We must keep up the pressure and ensure upskirting is made what it should be: a criminal offence.”