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Research

Upskirting law welcome, but could go further, expert says

(21 June 2018)

Planned new laws to criminalise upskirting are welcome but could go further, a leading academic expert has argued.

The UK Government has put a new Bill before Parliament to criminalise upskirting – the act of secretly taking a photograph under a victim’s skirt.

The Bill would criminalise taking upskirt images or videos where done for the purposes of sexual gratification, or causing distress to the victim, with a maximum prison term of two years.

Professor Clare McGlynn, of Durham Law School, welcomed the proposed legislation for England and Wales. Scotland already has separate laws that make the taking and/or sharing of upskirting images illegal.

But she said the proposed new legislation could go further to cover all forms of image-based sexual abuse.

Together with colleagues and campaigners, Professor McGlynn has long called for the introduction of a law against upskirting and more comprehensive legislation to protect victims from all image-based sexual abuse.

Upskirting and voyeurism

Professor McGlynn said: “I welcome the Government’s announcement as the first step towards a comprehensive law covering all forms of image-based sexual abuse.

“The current law is inconsistent, piecemeal and out of date. While welcome, the new Bill could be strengthened to adequately and effectively address the harms causing public concern, such as images taken of celebrities or at festivals.

“The law should cover all forms of upskirting and voyeurism, focussing on the harms experienced by victims, not the motives of perpetrators.

“Legislation should also cover threats to take and/or share intimate images and it must be updated to cover the growing problem of altered/photoshopping images and videos, often known as ‘fakeporn’.

“We also must extend the right to automatic anonymity to all victims. At the moment, for example, intimate images of victims can be shared on porn websites without their consent, but only victims of upskirting or voyeurism get anonymity, not victims of revenge porn.”

Important first step

Professor McGlynn added that there were “thousands of websites now dedicated to sharing images taken without consent, whether upskirting or so-called revenge porn”. 

She said: “Legislation is needed to challenge these forms of abuse as they can have devastating impacts on victims. They often suffer abuse, harassment and fear for their physical safety. Some contemplate suicide. 

“The current law in England and Wales does not clearly define upskirting. There is an ancient offence of ‘outraging public decency’, which can sometimes be used, but few have ever heard of that Law and it only covers some situations.

“That’s why the Bill introduced today by Government is a hugely important first step in tackling this problem.”

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