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Upskirting prosecutions more than double in second year since act became criminal offence

Almost a third of men prosecuted were also charged with other serious sexual crimes, CPS says

Emily Atkinson
Friday 03 December 2021 01:19 GMT
New technology is facilitating offences such as upskirting and stalking
New technology is facilitating offences such as upskirting and stalking (Getty/iStock)

Upskirting prosecutions have more than doubled in the second year since it was criminalised, with at least a third of offenders also committing other sexual crimes.

As total of 46 men and one teenage boy were prosecuted for 128 offences under the Voyeurism (Offences) Act between April 2020 and June 2021.

Shops, particularly supermarkets, were the most common location for upskirting to take place, accounting for 36 per cent of offences since last spring, analysis by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) found.

Streets, parks, and public transport or connected areas made up the majority of the remaining locations where crimes occurred.

In 16 of the offences that the victims were identified as teenage girls, including pupils in school uniforms.

The CPS said 15 of the men prosecuted for upskirting since last April were also charged with other serious sexual crimes. These include child abuse, sexual assault, extreme pornography, and wider voyeurism offences.

Evidence also shows some men are taking extensive measures to capture images and videos of women without their consent, such as hiding cameras in shoes or shopping baskets and using photography apps.

In one case, two men who arranged a visit to a shopping centre to upskirt women together. The pair exchanged the covert images over WhatsApp, where they were also found to have been sharing indecent images of children.

The law making upskirting a criminal offence was introduced after activist Gina Martin lobbied the government for two years when she was unable to prosecute a man who took a picture up her skirt at a music festival.

Those convicted in England and Wales face prison sentences of up to two years, although the crime can also be punished with a fine on summary conviction.

Siobhan Blake, CPS national lead for sexual offence prosecutions, said described the behaviours surrounding upskirting “disturbing”, and has urged any witnesses of the crime to come forward to “protect the public from dangerous sexual predators.”

She said: “Despite strict social distancing guidelines over past 18 months, it seems offenders have not been deterred from violating women’s privacy in a most degrading manner as they go about their daily lives. 

“These are disturbing patterns of behaviour, with our analysis showing many men are also committing other serious sexual offences, including child abuse. “Therefore, I encourage anyone who is a victim or witness of upskirting to immediately report it to the police. 

“Not only will the CPS treat your complaint seriously, you may also be helping to protect the public from dangerous sexual predators.”

Ms Martin described upskirting as a “gateway behaviour to more violent forms of assault.”

‘’From the moment I started collecting stories from victims and survivors I could tell upskirting wasn’t something that happens in a vacuum,” she said.

‘’It seemed to me that it was part of a wider continuum of violence and that often it can be a gateway behaviour to more violent forms of assault, or a habitual assault that runs parallel.

‘’Our need to neatly think of these acts as separate is part of our problem – they are not. I hope the prosecutions from the Voyeurism Act show us that no sexual offence is ‘minor’ or ‘every day’.

‘’The Voyeurism Act has shown us that every report is critical because you are holding an offender to account, but in many cases a repeat and violent offender, too.’’

Over the two years of the legislation being in force, a total of 63 defendants were charged with 175 offences of operating equipment under clothing without consent and recording an image under clothing without consent.

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