Upskirting Law: This Is How You Report From Today, But Will People Actually Do It?

The law has come into force but does it make a difference?

Upskirting is now a criminal offence in England and Wales – with the new law meaning perpetrators now face up to two years in jail and/or being added to the sex offenders register.

The term upskirting refers to the practice of taking photographs underneath another person’s clothing, without their consent, for the purpose of sexual gratification or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm.

This includes instances where pictures are taken “for a laugh” or paparazzi take intrusive images, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed.

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The criminal offence of upskirting was created under the Voyeurism Act, after a year of campaigning by Gina Martin, who was upskirted at a music festival.

The act received Royal Assent in February 2018, but has taken several months to come into full effect because local police forces were given a grace period to ensure guidance was updated and the law could be effectively enforced.

But there is still some concern as to whether women will report the offence. Mandy Coppin, CEO of Streetwise, a charity for young people, said: “I’m not sure this will empower young women to report upskirting as many don’t report other serious sexual assaults. We know from our research last year that 75% of young women (in the North East) who identified as being subject to a sexual assault did not report it.”

Laura Hubb, 24, from Liverpool, spends a lot of time at gigs and music events – where, she says, the crowds make it easier for people who wanted to upskirt – confirmed Coppin’s suspicions that the law won’t automatically ensure reports.

While she is “really happy” that upskirting is now a criminal offence, she is worried about what would happen if she tried to report it. “I can’t help but feel I would be laughed at or told to just get over it, which would put me off from reporting or make me think twice,” she said.

Dara Bargess, 53, from London suspected she was once upskirted on a train but was unable to get proof. She also worries about how the law will be implemented. “I am so glad this is coming into effect, it is a victory for women,” she said. “But I also worry there is little law enforcers can actually do.”

As the new law came into force, Gina Martin asked women to report any incidences of upskirting: “Please raise your voice and report if you are a victim or if you see someone become one - every report builds a picture so we can stop upskirting,” she said.

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer assured women that reporting is the answer: “We have always been clear – there are no excuses for this behaviour and offenders should feel the full force of the law. From today, they will.

How to report if you’re a victim of upskirting:

If you are a victim of upskirting the police are there to help you. You should report the offence to your local police force (who will have had updated guidelines in line with the law).

When you report the crime, the police must give you: written confirmation of the crime you’ve reported, a crime reference number and contact details for the police officer dealing with your case.

They must also tell you clearly what will happen next, tell you how often they will update you, carry out a ‘needs assessment’ to find out what support (if any) you require and ask a victim support organisation to contact you within 2 days.

They must also ask if you want to write a statement about how the crime has affected you. This is called a ‘victim personal statement’. It can be used later when the court is deciding on a punishment.

Under the new law, victims of upskirting will be entitled to automatic protection like other victims of sexual offences. This stops you from being identified in the media (they won’t be able to publish identifying details such as names, addresses or photos).