A couple of weeks ago the Government’s bill on upskirting passed successfully through the House of Commons and will now make its way through the House of Lords.
It will ensure that those taking pictures up women’s skirts can be successfully prosecuted wherever this activity is carried out.
The upskirting bill came about in response to a campaign led by 25 year old Gina Martin who had inadvertently found herself the victim of upskirting.
In Hyde Park last July, Gina was enjoying a music festival with some friends. Whilst waiting for a band to arrive on stage, two men, whose advances she had earlier declined, decided to take a photo up her skirt in a sadistic attempt at revenge.
This was not only a gross intrusion of privacy; it was also malicious, and the perpetrators should have been punished. Unfortunately, this was not the case and Gina was left feeling violated and distraught.
Such acts have become all too common. ‘Upskirting’ is taking place at tube stations, at work, in schools and on the street. The motives of perpetrators range from sexual gratification to, in Gina’s case, humiliation, distress or alarm.
Some offenders feel that because there is no physical contact this crime is victimless. That is simply not the case.
Thankfully, this behaviour is already being successfully prosecuted on some occasions. Under the offence of Outraging Public Decency, perpetrators are being brought to justice. A student was convicted in March for taking photos up women’s skirts in Oxford.
But concerns have been raised that not all instances of ‘upskirting’ would necessarily be covered by existing law, and there is a risk that this activity will not be caught in schools and workplaces.
We have taken steps to make this right. Victims should be in no doubt that their complaints will be taken seriously, and that perpetrators will be punished.
Gina and others have been campaigning tirelessly on this issue. Gina’s experience was hugely distressing; her courage in speaking up on the issue is admirable, and I hope this gives others the confidence to come forward.
I have had the privilege of meeting Gina and fellow campaigners in my capacity as Justice Minister. I am proud to have been in a position to introduce government legislation on upskirting which has now passed successfully through the House of Commons and will be heard in the House of Lords later this year, and hopefully will become law in the near future.