Upskirting - What is it, and what would a new law mean?

Upskirting - What is it, and what would a new law mean?
Upskirting - What is it, and what would a new law mean?

The campaign to criminalise upskirting is due to move a crucial step closer in the House of Commons on Friday after the Government announced its backing for a law.

Here are some of the key questions surrounding the issue:

What is upskirting?

The definition is currently applied to the invasive practice of taking an image or video up somebody's clothing in order to see their genitals or underwear.

While the vast majority of known cases involve men targeting women, the roles can be reversed.

The first available data on the prevalence of upskirting showed victims as young as 10 complaining to police.

Currently, there is no specific law in place banning the practice.

But haven't people been convicted of upskirting?

While Scotland has had its own law on upskirting for almost a decade, the law in England and Wales has not adapted to advances in technology.

Currently, anyone in England and Wales who falls victim to the cruel craze can explore possible convictions for public disorder or indecency.

Campaigners want a specific offence.

Why could campaigner Gina Martin not prosecute at the time?

Her lawyer, Ryan Whelan, said: "Decisions to prosecute rest with the authorities, not the victim. Under the current law the man who upskirted Gina could have potentially been prosecuted for outraging public decency.

"The problem is that prosecuting upskirters for outraging public decency is not appropriate. There are two primary reasons for this.

"First the offence of outraging public decency does not apply in all instances ofupskirting. This means that women are not protected in all circumstances.

"Second, the offence of outraging public decency is inappropriate as it fails to reflect the sexual nature of the offence and/or the fact that the harm is caused to the individual (rather than the public).

"These positions are not controversial. Leading authorities in the field agree with my client: upskirting is a gap in the law and the only way to solve it is by legislation."

What will the new law say?

The new law would bring the punishment for upskirting in line with other existing voyeurism offences, and the changes will see offenders face a maximum of two years in prison.

It would also allow this intrusive behaviour to be treated as a sexual offence and, with Government amendments, ensure that the most serious offenders are made subject to notification requirements - commonly referred to as the sex offenders register.

There will be a threshold, meaning those who commit the more serious offences - especially those designed to cause alarm, distress or humiliation - are dealt with more seriously.

Given the weight of public support for the law, is it expected to be given the go-ahead?

The fact that it's been backed by the Government is the strongest indication yet that the Bill will succeed. It has had tacit support from Theresa May in Prime Minister's Questions, plus the backing of prominent politicians across the floor and around the Commons chamber.

High-profile public figures - such as television presenters Holly Willoughby, Dermot O'Leary and Laura Whitmore - have also been open about their support for the campaign.

But the legislative process is complicated. First, the bill has to be called and nodded through - and despite cross-party support, there is still potential for a backbench derailment.

Only if there are no objections will it move to a committee stage for amendments before returning to the Commons and the Lords.