subscribe: Posts | Comments

Precise law about upskirt photos needed

0 comments

Richard Burgon, Vera Baird, Marc Jones, change law, upskirt photos, Gina Martin, petitionAn updated law would send a clear message that such acts are ‘completely unacceptable’.

Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon MP, has written to the Justice Secretary, David Lidington MP, to call for the government to make the taking of “upskirt” photographs – where a person takes a photograph up a woman’s skirt for their own sexual gratification – a sexual offence in law.

In the letter, Burgon echoed Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird’s earlier call for this necessary change and urged the government to close the current gap in the law that exists.

Two men took upskirt photos of Gina Martin when she was at a music festival in July.

She has since set up a public petition calling for the taking of upskirt photos to be made illegal under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 and for the law to specify clearly that this is a sexual offence with a victim – and calling for help to get the two men who took the pictures prosecuted.

To date the petition has over 60,000 signatures.

And Burgon said that he made his letter public, given the public interest in – and support for – this campaign.

The letter runs:

Dear Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor,

I am writing in support of the campaign, started by Gina Martin, to make disgraceful, invasive “upskirting” photographs a sexual offence in law.

The scope for people to take “upskirting” photographs has clearly increased with developments in mobile phone technology since the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

At present, there is a gap in the law that has allowed – and is continuing to allow – people who have taken such photographs in public places to escape prosecution.

This needs to be changed.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird has also made the case for this necessary change.

I believe that in the country there is strong support for Gina Martin’s campaign for this necessary change in the law.

The law must be changed so that women are protected, offenders are punished and potential offenders are deterred.

Given the very welcome public interest in – and support for – this campaign, I have made this letter public, and hope that you will publicly respond very soon with an announcement of plans to change the law so that the taking of “upskirting” photographs is a sexual offence in law.

Yours sincerely

Richard Burgon MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor.

Last week Dame Vera Baird QC said: “The taking of these images is a disgusting practice that can have an extremely distressing impact on victims.

“In addition, the perpetrator then often compounds these acts by up-loading these images onto the internet.

“The law, as it stands, is far from clear as there is no specific offence relating to the taking of pictures for sexual gratification without the victims knowledge or consent that covers this practice.

“For example, the offence of Voyeurism under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 would often not cover this practice as it requires that the perpetrator observes another person doing a private act, and typically the victims of “upskirting” are just going about their daily business in public.

“Whilst there have been a few successful prosecutions, these often rely on combination of particular circumstances and the use by the police of somewhat arcane public nuisance laws.

“However, these prosecutions are few and far between because they rely on the police not only being aware of the possibility of using arcane public nuisance laws, but then using them to deal with this modern type of offending.

“We are calling on the Justice Secretary look to include measures in the forthcoming Courts Bill to tackle this appalling practice and update the law to protect victims.”

And Marc Jones, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Lead and Deputy Lead on Victims, said: “We believe that it is more appropriate that this sort of behaviour is characterised as sexual offending.

“By creating a specific sexual offence covering the practice of “up-skirting” we will be providing the police with more of the tools they need to help bring perpetrators of these appalling acts to justice.

“Making this a specific sexual offence would mean proper recognition of the intent of the perpetrator and the real distress and sense of violation caused to the victim.

“In addition, it would allow for the range of sentencing and disposal options that are available in respect of sexual offences.

“When it comes to the up-loading of these images onto the internet there are additional and significant issues that also need to be addressed.

“Whilst it is a specific offence for a person to publish “revenge porn”, as it stands this would not cover the publication of an “up-skirt” photograph as the offence requires that the image is a private sexual photograph or film and that there is an intention to cause distress.

“This is clearly is a gap in the law which does not take into account the impact that the uploading these images has on victims and an example of the law failing to keep pace with the use of technology by offenders.

“An updated law would raise public consciousness around this issue, give police greater clarity over the tools available to pursue prosecutions and send a clear message that these acts are completely unacceptable.”

To add your signature to Gina Martin’s petition, click here.

You could also help the cause by sending a copy of this letter and the petition link to your MP and ask them for their support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *