People who take pictures of breastfeeding mothers without consent could face up to two years in jail under plans to change the law.
Domestic abuse victims will also be given more time to go to the police as part of amendments to the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill put forward by the Government on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said “taking non-consensual photographs or video recordings of breastfeeding mothers” would be made a “specific” breastfeeding voyeurism offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to two years in prison and covering “situations where the motive is to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm”.
No new mum should be harassed in this way. We are committed to doing everything we can to protect women, make them feel safer, and give them greater confidence in the justice systemDominic Raab
The decision comes after Labour MP Stella Creasy campaigned for legal reforms after being photographed breastfeeding her baby on public transport.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said “no new mum should be harassed in this way”, adding: “We are committed to doing everything we can to protect women, make them feel safer, and give them greater confidence in the justice system.”
Creating the specific offence gives “police and prosecutors the clarity and powers they need to ensure perpetrators face justice”, the MoJ added.
Meanwhile, Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, welcomed another amendment being made to the Bill which confirms plans to give victims in England and Wales more time to report assaults in a bid to stop abusers evading justice.
The time limit on common assault cases is currently six months, meaning a prosecution has to be brought to court within that time frame from the date of the alleged offence. That could be extended to two years.
Such cases can involve violence or threatening behaviour which lead to someone fearing they will be attacked.
They can often include things like being spat at, pushed or slapped.
Cases are typically dealt with in magistrates’ courts.
Campaigners have argued that police should be given more time to be able to bring charges as cases involving domestic abuse can be complex and victims can be reluctant to come forward.
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, put forward an amendment on the changes last year after working with a woman in her Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency, who reported to police “repeated domestic abuse but was told she had run out of time and nothing would be done”.
She said: “We’ve been putting huge pressure on the Government to lift the time limit so I’m glad they have now accepted our proposal to stop victims of domestic abuse being timed out of justice.
“We will keep up the pressure for more action.”
Ms Jacobs added: “It is important that all domestic abuse victims have the time and opportunity to report to the police.
“This is especially important following Covid restrictions, when many victims faced additional challenges to seeking help and reporting domestic abuse.
“I want to see increased prosecutions for domestic abuse and hope to see that, as these measures remove another barrier to bringing perpetrators to justice.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Every department in Government is working to address and tackle all issues relating to violence against women and girls”, adding that the amendments “put victims’ voices at the heart of our decisions”.
The plans will now be considered by Parliament.