Wera Hobhouse’s parliamentary bill to make ‘upskirting’ a specific criminal offence has now become law, with the change being hailed a victory by the Bath MP.
Upskirting is a highly intrusive practice, involving someone taking a picture under another person’s clothing without their knowledge, with the intention of viewing their genitals or bottom, with or without underwear.
The act itself was not a crime in England until yesterday, Tuesday 12th February 2019.
Wera said: “This is a victory for women up and down the country. It’s high time upskirting became a specific criminal offence, and I’m glad in this part at least, the law has caught up with technology.”
?The law changes today?
Upskirting is illegal.
No one has the right to take pictures under your clothes, without your consent.
— Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) February 12, 2019
“This is part of enshrining women’s autonomy over their bodies in to law, and means that the police and the courts will find it far easier to charge and prosecute perpetrators.”
“I hope to see the law act as a deterrent, and this sends a clear message that this predatory behaviour is not acceptable, and can result in jail time.”
The bill had an eventful journey through Parliament. Originating as a Private Member’s Bill tabled by Wera Hobhouse, it was blocked in its second reading in the Commons when Tory MP Christopher Chope objected to it.
The government was then forced to take the bill through Parliament in their own time.
Perpetrators will face two years in prison. By criminalising the practice, it is hoped that it will deter people from committing the crime.
Upskirting, where committed to obtain sexual gratification, can result in the most serious offenders being placed on the sex offenders register.
The new law will send a clear message that such behaviour is criminal and will not be tolerated.
Christopher Chope again blocked another private members bill last Friday, which this time aimed to make it easier for authorities to protect vulnerable girls against female genital mutilation.
On Monday, Wera Hobhouse asked the government if they would take on the bill as they had done with the upskirting bill, and they agreed.
However they have refused to take any action against MP Christopher Chope, who has blocked widely supported Private Member’s Bills habitually for decades.
Wera said: “Government ministers can disassociate themselves with Chope, express their outrage and say that they will talk to him, but the fact of the matter is that whilst the Government are struggling for numbers in crucial votes, no serious action will be taken against him.
“It shouldn’t take a media storm for the government to act.”
The Voyeurism Offences Act, which was commonly known as the Upskirting Bill, was introduced on 21st June 2018. It will come into force on 12th April 2019.