Summer should be about making great memories; a time to spend outside, socialising with family and friends, taking a well-earned break from work.
In Hyde Park last July, Gina Martin was doing exactly this – enjoying a music festival with some friends. That was until an incident ruined all her memories of that day – and left her feeling violated and distraught.
Gina was ‘upskirted’. Whilst waiting for a band to arrive on stage, two men, whose advances she had earlier declined, decided to take a photo up her skirt in a sadistic attempt at revenge.
This was not only a gross intrusion of privacy; it was also malicious, and the perpetrators should have been punished. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Such acts have become all too common. ‘Upskirting’ is taking place at tube stations, at work, in schools and on the street. The motives of perpetrators range from sexual gratification to, in Gina’s case, humiliation, distress or alarm.
Some offenders feel that because there is no physical contact this crime is victimless. That is simply not the case.
Thankfully, this behaviour is already being successfully prosecuted. Under the offence of Outraging Public Decency, perpetrators are being brought to justice. As recently as March, a student was convicted for taking photos up women’s skirts in Oxford.
But concerns have been raised that not all instances of ‘upskirting’ would necessarily be covered by existing law.
We must put this right. Victims should be in no doubt that their complaints will be taken seriously, and that perpetrators will be punished.
Gina and others have been campaigning tirelessly on this issue. And Government has been listening.
That is why we decided to support legislation brought forward by Wera Hobhouse MP to create a specific ‘upskirting’ offence.
Regrettably, that legislation failed to progress in Parliament, following objections raised by Sir Christopher Chope MP.
So today, the Government is intervening. We are taking matters into our own hands to make ‘upskirting’ a specific criminal offence.
We will proudly introduce a Government Bill in Parliament to make sure there will be no delay in getting this new law onto the statute books.
And we will go even further than Wera Hobhouse’s proposals - by ensuring the most serious offenders are added to the sex offenders register.
We hope this action will increase convictions, and show that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
Gina’s experience was hugely distressing; her courage in speaking up on the issue is admirable, and I hope this gives others the confidence to come forward.
If they do, victims should be in no doubt that the Government is on their side.
Lucy Frazer is a justice minister and Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire