Belfast Telegraph

Teachers' union chief hits out at lack of an 'upskirting' law in Northern Ireland

Concern: Justin McCamphill
Concern: Justin McCamphill

By Gillian Halliday

Victims of 'upskirting' voyeurs in Northern Ireland are being "let down" by the failure of authorities to adopt legislation enforced in other parts of the UK.

Justin McCamphill of teachers' union NASUWT insisted yesterday the introduction of a form of the Voyeurism (Offences) Act adopted in England and Wales would be the first "big step" in tackling the issue here.

"The will is there, but we need the political institutions up and running again," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

The union 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, who was 18 at the time, was found guilty last February of committing acts of outraging public decency after taking upskirt pictures of two female teachers at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School between 2015 and 2016.

Mr Camphill's renewed call comes as figures published yesterday revealed that in England and Wales a total of 152 incidents have been reported to 35 police forces since the law was introduced last year.

The statistics, obtained under Freedom of Information requests, also showed that in 2018 - the year before the Act was enforced - 94 incidents were recorded by police.

The union official said that while he would welcome a specific upskirting law for Northern Ireland, he believed the one in England and Wales does not go far enough to tackle the issue.

"That legislation would be a big step in the right direction, but it has to be proved that the motive was sexual," he explained.

"We believe that you shouldn't have to prove the motive; the fact that it is a deliberate act should be enough."

Mr McCamphill said it was "unacceptable" that upskirting here is being prosecuted under the offence of outraging public decency.

"That means for it to be a crime, you have to prove the public was present and they were offended," he said.

"It's unacceptable, but we are confident changes will be made, and not necessarily what's in England and Wales."

A Department of Justice spokesperson yesterday explained that a summary of responses to a 2019 consultation on the proposed inclusion of upskirting under child sexual exploitation laws will be published in due course.

Any change in law will be a matter for a future minister, they added.

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