Backbench law to crack down on 'upskirting' photos gets support from ministers
Ministers have thrown their weight behind a Liberal Democrat bid to clamp down on people who take secret “upskirt” pictures of unsuspecting victims.
The new law - championed by Lib Dem backbencher Wera Hobhouse in a private member’s bill - will beef up the existing Sexual Offences Act and make so-called upskirting a jailable offence for the first time.
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer has now confirmed that the Government is backing the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill tabled by the Lib Dem MP and campaigned for by upskirting victim Gina Martin.
Announcing the support from ministers - rare for a bill from the Commons backbenches - Ms Frazer said the taking of voyeuristic snaps was a “hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed”.
"By making ‘upskirting’ a specific offence, we are sending a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators will be properly punished," she said.
"I’d like to thank Wera Hobhouse, Gina Martin, and all other campaigners for their tireless work, and look forward to seeing the Bill progress through Parliament."
Victims of upskirting can currently bring prosecutions under the existing Outraging Public Decency offence.
But research carried out by the Press Association earlier this year revealed that police forces had pursued just 78 offences relating to the intrusive photography since 2015 - with just 11 of those leading to charges.
Ms Hobhouse’s Bill - which gets its second reading in the Commons today - will create a new offence in England and Wales which specifically clamps down on the use of covert photography "to obtain sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress or alarm".
If the Bill passes as expected, those convicted of the offence will face jail terms of up to two years or hefty fines.
Welcoming the Government’s backing, Ms Hobhouse said: "I got involved in politics to change things that my constituents and I care about. I am incredibly grateful to Gina Martin for starting this campaign, and for giving me the opportunity – in my first year in parliament – to do exactly that.
"The fact that the Government have listened to our calls is testament to the widespread consensus that there was a gap in the law that needed to be addressed. By working with Gina and ministers on the detail of my bill, we have demonstrated when we work together successfully we can make a difference on issues that really matter to people."
Ms Martin - who has faced rape threats and abuse since launching her campaign - said the "women and girls who needed this law changed are now being heard by those in power".
Ms Hobhouse’s bill has already picked up cross-party support, winning the backing of Conservative MPs Anna Soubry and Jeremy Lefroy, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, and Labour MPs Catherine West and Grahame Morris.