08:16, February 20 350 0 theguardian.com

2018-02-20 08:16:04
Government rules out 'upskirting' law for England and Wales

The government has ruled out creating a new law banning “upskirting”, despite calls for more protection for victims.

The Ministry of Justice said there was no need for a change in the law to make it a specific offence to take intimate pictures underneath a victim’s clothes in England and Wales. Taking “upskirting” or “downblousing” images is already illegal in Scotland.

It emerged recently that children as young as 10 have been victims of upskirting, with police recording 78 cases in the past two years, according to a freedom of information request by the Press Association. But only one-third of police forces in England and Wales held data on upskirting, suggesting the real figure could be much higher.

Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University and an expert on sexual violence, said the government’s response was “manifestly failing victims”. Currently, perpetrators can be threatened with outraging public decency, which relied on others’ view of the offence rather than the victim’s, she said, adding that a lack of anonymity also prevented women coming forward.

The inability to classify upskirting as an offence hindered the ability of police forces to record upskirting and take action to tackle it, said Sarah Green of the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

“Mobile phones have had a huge impact on the scale and types of offences committed against women and girls over the last few years, and it is critical that the law and chief constables keep up with this,” she said. “The law should be urgently examined in this area.”

Conservative MP Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities select committee, said new laws could help tackle the “horrific crime of upskirting”, as they had done in the case of the new law specifically against “revenge pornography”, which now sees 500 cases prosecuted a year.

The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, said: “The government is failing to do everything possible to protect the victims of this disgraceful, intrusive and abusive practice.”

The MoJ said the law was under constant review, but a press officer added: “Powers already exist to enable prosecutions, so there doesn’t need to be [a change in the law].

“It is up to prosecutors to decide if there is sufficient evidence for them to move forward – the issue is not with the laws in place.”