Government appears to rule out new law banning upskirting

The Government has appeared to rule out creating a new law banning upskirting, despite widespread calls for fresh rules to protect victims.

Only one-third of police forces in England and Wales hold data on the craze, figures show.

But the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said on Tuesday said there "doesn't need" to be a change that would make the practice of taking intimate pictures of victims underneath their clothes a specific criminal offence.

The MoJ cited existing laws as an avenue for prosecution, a day after stating such legislation was "under constant review".

Campaigners say current laws on voyeurism, public order and public decency do not go far enough to protect victims, and described the Government's stance as "wholly inadequate".

It comes as the first figures on upskirting, obtained by the Press Association, show:

- Just 15 of 44 police forces contacted had record of any allegations of upskirting in the two years since revenge porn was made illegal.

- Those with data showed 78 incidents reported in two years, with 11 resulting in suspects being charged.

- Complainants were as young as 10.

The data, released under freedom of information laws, prompted renewed calls for a specific upskirting law similar to the way revenge porn was made a criminal offence in 2015 following a nationwide campaign.

Responding further to the Press Association on Tuesday, an MoJ press officer said: "Powers already exist to enable prosecutions so there doesn't need to be (a change in the law).

"It is up to prosecutors to decide if there is sufficient evidence for them to move forward, the issue is not with the laws in place."

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Richard Burgon (Danny Lawson/PA)
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has campaigned for a new law (Danny Lawson/PA)

A statement from the department on Monday said: "This behaviour is a violation of privacy and causes considerable distress for victims.

"Prosecutors have a range of powers to deal with these cases. We continue to keep legislation under constant review to ensure we can bring offenders to justice."

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, who has campaigned for the creation of a new law and previously raised the issue in the House of Commons, said: "Under pressure from campaigners, the Government had given the impression that it was seriously reviewing the law to tackle this violation of women's rights.

"To now claim that no change is needed lets women down and flies in the face of the evidence.

"The Government is failing to do everything possible to protect the victims of this disgraceful, intrusive and abusive practice.

"This law must be changed to protect women, punish offenders and deter others.

"If the Conservative government continues to refuse to make such changes, then Labour in government will enact legislation to make this a specific sexual offence."

Campaigners want upskirting to be treated in the same way as so-called revenge porn (PA Wire / Dominic Lipinski)
Campaigners want upskirting to be treated the same way as so-called revenge porn (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University and an expert on sexual violence, described the Government's response as "wholly inadequate" and said it "fails to recognise that the current law does not cover all forms of upskirting and is manifestly failing victims".

She added: "One victim told me that the current law falls far short of what is needed because outraging public decency is all about other members of the public being outraged at what happened, rather than vindicating how she was harmed as a victim.

"Further, few women are willing to come forward as they are not automatically granted anonymity.

"A specific new law covering all forms of upskirting would recognise the harms victims experience and ensure perpetrators are deterred. Women should not have to put up with this form of public sexual harassment any longer."

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