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Justice Minister Naomi Long to make upskirting a specific offence in Northern Ireland

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Justice Minister Naomi Long

Justice Minister Naomi Long

NASUWT’s Justin McCamphill

NASUWT’s Justin McCamphill

Justice Minister Naomi Long

Justice Minister Naomi Long has said she plans to bring forward proposals to make upskirting a specific offence early next year.

Upskirting is the invasive practice of taking an image or video of underneath somebody's clothing without their consent.

Responding to an Assembly question put to her by Green Party MLA Rachel Woods, the Alliance leader stated that, subject to Executive approval, she intends to bring forward legislative proposals to make upskirting an offence in a Justice Bill planned for the Assembly in early 2021.

The voyeuristic practice became a specific criminal offence in England and Wales in April 2019 following a campaign led by 27-year-old writer Gina Martin.

It was already an offence in Scotland.

Ms Martin spent 18 months fighting to make upskirting a specific offence after two men took a picture up her skirt at a festival in 2017.

Teachers' union NASUWT has been lobbying to criminalise upskirting here since a high-profile case involving a male teenager who was prosecuted for filming two teachers at a school in Co Fermanagh.

Timothy Boomer was found guilty in February 2019 of committing acts of outraging public decency after taking upskirt pictures of two female teachers at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School (formerly Portora Royal School) between 2015 and 2016.

Boomer was aged 14 and 15 when he committed the offences, and 18 when sentenced.

He was sentenced to a 20-hour restorative order. A conviction in England and Wales is dependent on proving that the person carrying out the act was doing it for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification, or humiliating, distressing or alarming the individual.

Justin McCamphill of NASUWT welcomed Mrs Long's statement and hopes the legislative proposals here will go further than the law in England and Wales.

"The NASUWT have been campaigning for this measure for a long time," he said.

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NASUWT’s Justin McCamphill

NASUWT’s Justin McCamphill

NASUWT’s Justin McCamphill

"We represented the two victims in the Enniskillen Royal Grammar upskirting case and through that case we realised that there was a deficit in the existing legislation.

"It's important to note that we don't simply want to copy the provisions that exist in the rest of the UK, but want a law which makes all upskirting carried out intentionally and without consent to be made a criminal act."

After Boomer was sentenced, the union had said the two women had been left with post-traumatic stress disorder.

North Down MLA Miss Woods stated there was a "clear need" for a specific law to tackle upskirting and said she was looking forward to developing the proposals with the Justice Minister and her department.

"We will also have a responsibility to look at this as part of the justice committee as well," she continued.

"I am a member of the committee and this has come up in our discussions.

"At the moment we're looking at the Domestic Abuse Bill and we were talking about a lot of other things that Northern Ireland does not have.

"We are the only part of the UK that does not have legislation that is specific to upskirting.

"I am really glad that it is a priority for the minister and I absolutely look forward to working on this.

"It is absolutely degrading, humiliating and a complete violation for people who have experienced upskirting."

Belfast Telegraph