Upskirting: what’s the legal situation?

27 June 2018
What was claimed

Upskirting is not illegal because there is no specific crime covering the act.

Our verdict

Upskirting offenders have been prosecuted under existing laws but there is criticism these don’t go far enough. A new bill would specify upskirting as a criminal act if passed.

“A Liberal Democrat MP has tabled a parliamentary bill that would make it a criminal offence to take a photo up a person’s skirt without their permission. Wera Hobhouse introduced the bill after discovering “upskirting” is not illegal because there is no specific crime covering the act.”

Independent, 8 March 2018

Last week parliament was presented with a bill which if passed would make “upskirting” (or taking a photo or video up someone’s skirt) an offence in England and Wales.

Upskirting is already an offence in certain situations. Offenders have been prosecuted for upskirting offences under the existing voyeurism clauses in the Sexual Offences Act, and the common law offence of outraging public decency.

But there are criticisms that these laws don’t go  far enough.   

For example, the offence of outraging public decency has to be witnessed by two or more other people. And to be an offence under the voyeurism clauses, the upskirting would have to record a “private act”. 

The upskirting bill would add to the existing Sexual Offences Act, specifying that recording an image or ‘operating equipment’ beneath the clothing of another person without their consent, for the purposes of sexual gratification or to humiliate or distress the person, is an offence.

The bill applies to the law in England and Wales as justice matters are devolved in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Northern Ireland’s voyeurism laws under the Sexual Offences Order 2008 are currently the same as in England and Wales.

In Scotland taking photographs under a person’s clothing is already a specific crime under the Sexual Offences Act 2009.

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