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This victim of upskirt photography is campaigning to change sexual harassment laws

One victim is taking action to try to get the offending practice listed under the Sexual Offences Act.

If a man takes a photo up a woman’s skirt in a public space, you would expect it to be fairly easy for the victim to prosecute. However, that’s unfortunately not the experience that Gina Martin has had.

On 8 July Gina was watching the Killers at the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park, London, when she says two men took upskirt photos of her without her knowledge or permission.

Distressed after seeing the photos the men were sending to each other, Gina – a digital creative and freelance writer who lives in London – grabbed one of their phones and ran to security to report the incident.

However, Gina says the police officer said to her: “I’m really sorry, I’ve had to look at the picture to identify it’s you – but there’s not really much we can do because it’s not graphic.”

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Gina is on the left, and the men responsible for the photographs have been pixelated (Gina Miller/PA)

The way Gina interpreted this was that as she was wearing underwear, the police didn’t think there was much that could be done in prosecuting the men. However, upskirt photography is in fact something that can be prosecuted – and has been in the past.

Five days later, Gina got a call from another police officer saying that her case was closed.

“I was really upset by this,” Gina says. “I was on the way to another festival for work, and I tried to have a good time but I was just scared of it happening again that I actually didn’t wear a skirt which is so sad.”

Since finding out that her case was closed, Gina has looked more into the laws of upskirt photography. She says: “I can technically prosecute, but it’s under a common law from 100 years ago about outraging public decency.

“It’s not under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 – that’s the issue, and that’s what I’m trying to get changed.”

Gina set up a petition explaining her situation and gathering public pressure for her case to be reopened. Her petition has gained so much momentum (with over 30,000 supporters) that the Met Police has agreed to reopen her case.

A spokeswoman for the Met Police says: “The Met takes allegations of voyeurism seriously and does and will investigate them thoroughly. We use a range of policing tactics and deploy officers on specific operations to target this sort of criminal behaviour based on intelligence. We understand that it can be incredibly invasive and distressing for those that this happens to.

“In this specific case we believed the allegation had originally been dealt with in line with the victim’s wishes. We have subsequently recontacted the victim and enquiries are ongoing.”

Even though this is a positive outcome from the campaign, Gina is still shocked at the response she’s got. Half of the messages she’s received have been from women thanking her for taking a stand and sharing their own stories of sexual harassment, whereas the other half have been men giving Gina abuse.

“I’ve been told I should have been raped,” Gina says. “I’ve been told I should have worn a longer skirt.”

This reaction – from both sides – is what has pushed Gina to do something about it. She says: “I’m going to be writing a letter to my MP about debating this, and hopefully getting the law codified or amended so that upskirt photography is listed under the Sexual Offences Act as a sexual offence.

“It’s about clarifying the law and putting it out there that this is not okay.”

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