Theresa May to introduce new upskirting law after embarrassing block by Tory MP Christopher Chope

The prime minister hopes to have the new bill put before parliament before it rises for the summer

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Monday 18 June 2018 13:49
Commons bill to make 'upskirting' criminal offence halted by Peter Chope objection

Downing Street has announced that the government will introduce a law to ban upskirting after a previous attempt by MPs to bring one in was blocked.

Theresa May discussed the new law with cabinet ministers on Monday after Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope torpedoed the bid by backbenchers to push one through.

Sir Christopher’s actions led to outrage and embarrassment for other Conservatives who backed the bill, while someone hung women’s underwear off the doors of his offices in protest on Monday morning.

Confirming that cabinet discussed the issue, Ms May’s spokesman said: “The PM said [upskirting] is an invasion of privacy, which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

“Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the house of commons said that Wera Hobhouse had championed legislation to address this issue and brought it before parliament.

“She said the measure is one the government supports, and has received extensive support both within and outside of parliament. So she was pleased to confirm we will adopt this as a government bill.”

The spokesman said the government aimed to secure the new bill’s second reading in the house of commons as soon as possible, before parliament rises for the summer, making it possible that a new law could be in place by the end of the year.

Campaigners welcome government pledge on upskirting

Legal experts have said the lack of a dedicated upskirting offence is driving inconsistent approaches by police and prosecutors, while leaving victims unaware of their rights.

Supporters pointed to hundreds of prosecutions sparked by a 2015 law that criminalised revenge pornography as a potential indicator of the affect the change could have.

Sir Christopher, MP for Christchurch in Dorset, said on Sunday that he actually supported measures to make upskirting illegal that had been proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Ms Hobhouse, calling it “vulgar, humiliating and unacceptable.”

But the 71-year-old member claimed he blocked the bill last Friday on a point of principle, that does not agree with non-government legislation being brought before parliament at the end of the week when there it not time for it to fully debated.

Bills proposed by backbench MPs can sometimes be brought forward on Fridays and are sometimes waved through without full discussion – but it takes just one objection to spike them. If approved, they would still face commons debate and scrutiny later in the process.

After Sir Christopher blocked the backbench upskiting bill, someone hung knickers from the door of both his constituency and parliamentary offices on Monday, with pictures spreading across social media.

Meanwhile, a former deputy speaker of the house of commons has called for a change to the “arcane” procedures which allowed him to block the legislation.

Nigel Evans, Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, wrote to the commons procedure committee to demand a review of parliament’s rules.

He said: “I was so angry by the fact that not just the upskirting bill but a number of other bills on Friday, which are decent bills that deserved some form of airtime, were blocked in this way.”

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