The Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 makes ‘Upskirting’ illegal

A new law comes into force today, which criminalises the offence of ‘upskirting.’ The Act has its direct origins in campaigning by Gina Martin, and an experience she underwent whilst at a music festival in Hyde Park.

Ms Martin became aware that two men near to her were acting inappropriately. Half an hour later, she realised that a photo being reviewed by one of the men had in fact been taken surreptitiously up her skirt. Although the Police were called, no action was taken- essentially because of deficiencies in the law at the time.

At the time, there was a glaring problem with the law as it stood. Instances of ‘upskirting’ were charged as ‘Outraging the Public Decency,’ but this required that at least two people must be capable of seeing the photographs being taken. By its nature, this is not always the case with upskirting.

What does the new law do?

The new Act creates two new criminal offences and adds them in a new section of the existing Sexual Offences Act 2003. The Government intends that the new offences are to be charged where:-

  • ‘Without consent, an individual operates equipment or records an image beneath a person’s clothing to observe their genitalia or buttocks, whether covered or uncovered by underwear garments’;
  • ‘The offender has a motive of either obtaining sexual gratification or causing humiliation, distress or alarm to the victim.’

What are the possible punishments?

The new offences can be tried either in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court. If convicted in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence is twelve months’ imprisonment, and/or a fine.

Cases deemed to be of greater severity will be sent to the Crown Court, where the maximum sentence is two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. In those cases deemed to be sufficiently serious, offenders will additionally be made subject to notification requirements (also known as being placed on the ‘sex offenders register.’)

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