National news: Government review could see 'upskirting' made a specific criminal offence

There are calls to make taking 'upskirt' photos without permission a separate criminal offence.
There are calls to make taking 'upskirt' photos without permission a separate criminal offence.

The government is considering making 'upskirting' a criminal offence after campaigners said current laws weren't appropriate and didn't always lead to conviction.

The first official figures on the practice - which often sees perpetrators taking photographs or videos up a victim's dress or skirt - reveal complainants as young as 10, with only one-third of police forces in England and Wales having any data on the prevalence of upskirting.

Campaigners say existing laws for voyeurism, public decency and public order to not provide enough scope for a conviction, with many victims concerned about access to justice.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "This behaviour is a violation of privacy and causes considerable distress for victims.

"Prosecutors have a range of powers to deal with these cases. We continue to keep legislation under constant review to ensure we can bring offenders to justice."

Campaigners say the situation echoes that of image-based sexual abuse - often referred to as revenge porn - which lingered in a legal grey area until a law was introduced in April 2015 following a national campaign.

Just 15 of 44 police forces contacted had record of any allegations of upskirting in the two years since revenge porn was made illegal.

While the South Yorkshire and Derbyshire forces had no record of any allegations, there were six in Nottinghamshire two of which resulted in criminal charges.

In one case, a man was seen following a woman around a shop, taking a picture up her skirt when she approached the checkout.

In another case, a woman realised she was a victim when two men in a shop told her they thought a man might have been taking pictures of her.

Another victim said she was a victim of upskirting by an unknown man while in a shop with her partner.

The police log said the woman made store security aware, and she was told to ring the police for CCTV footage to identify the suspect.

Those forces who did have with data showed 78 incidents were reported in two years, with 11 resulting in suspects being charged.

Complainants were as young as 10.

The data, released under Freedom of Information laws, prompted renewed calls for a specific upskirting law similar to the way revenge porn was made a criminal offence in 2015 following a nationwide campaign.

Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University and an expert on sexual violence, said: "The Government's response is still wholly inadequate.

"There is no more information that is needed - we need to be changing the law now.

"There is sufficient evidence on which the Government can make a decision to change the law. That's what victims want and are expecting."