Girls as young as ten victims of ‘upskirting’

Campaigners have called for urgent changes to criminalise the act alongside other sexual offences as there is no current law banning upskirting.

In some cases, victims have had to pursue claims of voyeurism or indecency instead.

Victims, politicians and campaign groups have called on the Government to implement “an effective criminal law” for the act, which often sees perpetrators escape punishment after photographing or filming a victim’s groin area from beneath their clothing.

Girls as young as ten victims of ‘upskirting’
Girls as young as ten victims of ‘upskirting’

The campaign for legislation on the issue follows the movement for clearer laws on image-based sex abuse – or revenge porn – which saw legislation come in to force in 2015 in response to a legal grey area.

The first official figures come from an Freedom of Information (FoI) request detailing upskirting incidents. It highlighted many of the issues facing officers dealing with reports.

It showed only 15 of the 44 police forces included had any record of upskirting allegations in the past two years. Fourteen said there were no records and another 15 either refused or failed to respond.

Forces with data showed 78 reports in two years and 11 of those resulting in suspects being charged.

The true scale of the problem is likely to be much bigger, according to campaigners who said police faced difficulties being able to log and investigate cases.

There was insufficient evidence to prosecute in several cases, including one involving a 10-year-old girl in 2015, according to Avon and Somerset Police.

Video:Should ‘upskirting’ be a specific criminal offence?

Professor of law at Durham University Clare McGlynn – also an expert on sexual violence – said: “The Government’s continuing failure to provide an effective criminal law against upskirting breaches women’s human rights.

“We are entitled to protection from degrading and abusive treatment, whether offline or online – and we are entitled to have our privacy in public respected.

“We are also entitled to a law that is fit for purpose, a law that treats this abuse as a form of sexual offence and that provides anonymity to all complainants. Only then will victims feel more willing to come forward and report to the police and support prosecutions.”

Tory MP Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee, said it was “concerning” if police felt they did not have adequate powers to tackle the “horrific crime”.

“Sometimes the law isn’t straightforward in its application and new laws can help,” she said. “In the case of revenge pornography there are now more than 500 cases prosecuted a year.”

Sarah Green, of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said the figures showed police were “clearly struggling to recognise upskirting distinctly”.

Campaigner Gina Martin told Sky News last year: “Every woman I know has experienced sexual harassment on some level. I’m bored of women’s bodies being public properties.”

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