POLITICS
15/06/2018 14:54 BST | Updated 16/06/2018 09:57 BST

Theresa May Vows To Take Action On Upskirting After Tory MP Blocks Bill

The prime minister said upskirting is “an invasion of privacy”.

Theresa May says she is “disappointed” that the upskirting bill was not passed, after it was blocked by a Tory MP.

The prime minister said upskirting is “an invasion of privacy” and she wants to see a bill that will make it a criminal offence pass through Parliament “soon”. 

He comments came after Christopher Chope intervened on Friday afternoon to block a bid to make upskirting a specific criminal offence.

The Tory MP was greeted with cries of “shame” from other MPs after he prevented the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill getting its second reading in the Commons.

On Friday night, May said: “Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

“I am disappointed the Bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament – with Government support – soon.”

The practice of upskirting, which sees perpetrators take images under a person’s clothing without their consent, has been condemned by MPs on all sides. 

Gareth Fuller - PA Images via Getty Images
Wera Hobhouse has seen her attempt to make upskirting a crime blocked by a Tory MP.

The legislation had been proposed by Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse and had won the support of the government.

“I think it’s very frustrating and annoying that one MP can block a consensus that had been built over several months,” she told Sky News.

The Lib Dem press office added in a tweet: “Christopher Chope really is odious.”

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins, also minister for women, and Tory MP Will Quince (Colchester) were among those who said “shame” when the Bill was blocked.

It only requires one MP to shout “object” when the title of a private member’s bill is read out to halt its progress.

The Bill will now return to the Commons on July 6 - however there is no guarantee it will be debated.

Hobhouse said it appeared Chope had objected to her Bill “on a general principle that he doesn’t like private member’s bills”.

A government spokesman said: “This behaviour is a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

“It cannot be tolerated, so it is absolutely right that the Government supports this Bill to make ‘upskirting’ a specific offence.

“Whilst we are disappointed this Bill did not pass second reading today, we look forward to supporting these measures through the House at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Richard Burgon, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said he was “disgusted” by the blocking move.

He called on the government to introduce its own legislation in place of Hobhouse’s Bill.

Labour MP Jess Phillips and Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, also criticised Chope.

Margot James, minister for digital and creative industries, tweeted: “The Goverment is determined that it becomes illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent, Chope can delay, but not prevent, Wera Hobhouse’s bill from becoming law.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also took to social media. “Dismayed & appalled that Conservative MP & former leader of Wandsworth Council Chris Chope has done this,“he tweeted.

“The Government should act now and introduce primary legislation to tackle this abusive form of sexual harassment.”

Upskirting victim Gina Martin, 26, faced rape threats and abuse after launching her campaign to make it a criminal offence.

Martin said: “I am obviously extremely upset and disappointed that Sir Christopher Chope decided to object on this vitally important bill for the women of England and Wales.

“I remain positive, though. We knew this was a risk - but I now stand with powerful, passionate, women and men behind me, and I am confident that [justice minister] Lucy Frazer is committed to - and will - close this gap in the law.”

Ryan Whelan, a lawyer who helped Martin, told HuffPost UK: “We’re obviously very disappointed that the bill has stalled but we don not consider this the end of it.

“The cries of shame of shame that rang out after the objection told their own story.”