When a man took a photo beneath Gina Martin’s skirt at a recent music festival, she was left “blubbing” and a “complete mess”, not least because police reportedly told her there was nothing they could do about the incident.
Upskirting - the practice of taking photos beneath someone’s clothes without their permission - is illegal in Scotland under the Sexual Offences Act, but it isn’t specifically criminalised in England and Wales.
But while Justice Secretary David Lidington said he’s taking the petition “very seriously”, he added that he is waiting on more “detailed advice” before making a commitment in legislation.
So until the law changes, what should you do if you’ve been upskirted and is it worth reporting the incident if it isn’t even acknowledged as a crime?
Speaking to HuffPost UK, a spokesperson from the Crown Prosecution Service said although upskirting isn’t part of the Sexual Offences Act in England and Wales, it is still worth reporting.
They said that incidents of this nature may be prosecuted under different offences “depending on the specifics of the case, including outraging public decency, voyeurism or taking indecent images”.
They added that punishment for the perpetrator will depend on what offence the perpetrator is charged with and “then it is up to the judge to sentence accordingly”.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) lead for adult sexual offences, assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt, also told HuffPost UK: “While ‘upskirting’ is not technically an offence under current legislation in England and Wales, incidents of this nature can either be dealt with by police as ‘voyeurism’ or ‘outraging public decency’, depending on the circumstances of each individual case.
“I would encourage victims of this invasive and abhorrent practice to contact police and any such report will be taken seriously and fully investigated.
“There have already been successful ‘upskirting’ prosecutions in England and we are currently working with colleagues in Scotland - where the offence is recognised in legislation - to ensure learning or transferable practice is shared to improve our ability to tackle this sickening behaviour.”
The NPCC advise victims of upskirting to remove themselves from the area as quickly as possible, but if they are able, to make a mental note of the offender as well as the time and place of the incident, to provide the most accurate description possible for the police.
While Martin reportedly grabbed the man’s phone after realising she’d been upskirted, the NPCC does not advise confronting the offender, or attempting to take a photograph of them, as gathering information should not come at the expense of the victim’s safety.
It warns that confronting an offender in this way may increase the risk of the offender becoming physically violent.
Although the law is yet to formerly recognise upskirting, let’s hope that the more that people report the issue, the more the government will be forced to address it with updated legislation.
So if you’re the victim, report the incident to the police, speak to your loved ones and do not hesitate to contact a sexual abuse charity for support.
Useful helplines and websites:
- Victim Support - Visit victimsupport.org.uk or call 0808 168 9111 Sexual Abuse Referral Centres - Find a SARC
- Rape Crisis - Visit rapecrisis.org.uk or call 0808 802 9999 The Rape and Abuse Line - Visit rapeandabuseline.co.uk or call 0808 800 0123 (answered by women) or 0808 800 0122 (answered by men).