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Upskirting and the law: your questions answered

Justice Secretary David Gauke told MPs he is ‘sympathetic’ to calls for further action against the practice.

MPs have been told the Government could support creating a specific offence to deal with upskirting.

Justice Secretary David Gauke told MPs he is “sympathetic” to calls for further action against the practice and his officials are reviewing the current law to “make sure it is fit for purpose”.

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Here is everything you need to know about upskirting:

What is upskirting?

The definition is currently applied to the practice of taking an image or video up somebody’s clothing in order to see their genitals or underwear.

While the vast majority of known cases involve men targeting women, the roles can be reversed.

The first available data on the prevalence of upskirting showed victims as young as 10 complaining to police.

Currently, there is no specific law in place banning the practice.

But haven’t people been convicted of upskirting?

While Scotland has had its own law on upskirting for almost a decade, the law in England and Wales has not adapted to advances in technology.

Currently, anyone in England and Wales who falls victim to the cruel craze can explore possible convictions for voyeurism, public disorder or indecency.

But campaigners say this is inadequate because criteria for a conviction down these channels – such as the incident being witnessed by other people – is not always available.

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So what will the new law say?

According to the current draft wording, an amendment to the Voyeurism Offences Bill, a person would be convicted of upskirting if they take an image or video beneath a victim’s clothing, to view their genitals or undergarments, without consent.

The image would fall foul of the law if it was used for sexual gratification or if it caused humiliation, distress or alarm to the victim.

A suspect could be convicted even if they failed to capture an image – the intention to film would be enough to secure a prosecution.

And the punishment?

Those convicted of upskirting at a Magistrates’ Court can receive a jail term of up to 12 months or a fine. At a Crown Court, where more serious cases are heard, a conviction will attract a jail term of up to two years.

Given the weight of public support for the law, is it expected to be given the go-ahead?

Just because campaigners say they have cross-party support it does not mean the Bill will sail through the legislative process, particularly because it is a Private Member’s Bill – not one included in the Conservative Party manifesto at the last general election.

The Bill, introduced by Bath Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, is scheduled for a second reading in the House of Commons on May 11 but will have further bureaucratic hurdles to clear before becoming law.

First of all, it has to get on the reading list. Then, if just one MP objects during that reading, the Bill will be shunted to the bottom of the pile and can spend months languishing in purgatory.

If it is read with no objections, it will progress to the committee stage for possible amendments, before returning to the Commons and the Lords.

Only then will it become a criminal offence.

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