Marc Jones calls for ‘up-skirt’ photographs to become a specific sexual offence

Marc Jones - Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
Marc Jones - Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

A call for new laws to make ‘up-skirting’ photos a criminal offence has been made by Lincolnshire’s police and crime commissioner.

Marc Jones has written to the Secretary of State for Justice to ask for the practice to be made a specific sexual offence in new laws due to be introduced this year.

Mr Jones’s letter comes in the wake of national headlines about the practice of ‘up-skirting’, where people take pictures of women’s underwear by pointing phones up their skirts. The images are then often shared online.

The issue came to prominence recently when London student Gina Martin caught a man taking pictures up her skirt at a music festival. Miss Martin managed to seize the camera and made a complaint to police.

When the police told her they could not pursue the case because no laws were broken she launched an online petition, calling for the act to be made illegal, which currently has nearly 54,000 signatures.

The issue has been raised by Mr Jones in his capacity as the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ deputy lead on the Victims portfolio, a role he took on last month. The letter was co-signed by Dame Vera Baird, the PCC for Northumberland and chair of the APCC Supporting Victims and Reducing Harm group.

The letter, to The Rt Hon David Lidington MP Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, said the “disgusting practice can be extremely distressing for the victim and leave them feeling violated”.

Mr Jones has also written to all Lincolnshire MPs highlighting the issue and asking for their support in driving through new legislation and has today received the personal backing of Baroness Newlove the Victims Commissioner for England and Wales.

At the moment there is no specific legislation, relating to this issue. If the person being photographed is in a place which would reasonably be expected to provide privacy, such as a home or changing room, it may amount to the offence of voyeurism under section 67 the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

It could also come under the criminal offence of ‘outraging public decency’, but two people need to see the photo for the offence to be chargeable.

The letter points out that there is “clearly is a gap in the law, and a case of the law failing to keep pace with the use of technology by offenders”.

Mr Jones said: “By creating a specific sexual offence covering the practice of ‘up-skirting’ we will be providing the police with more of the tools they need to help bring perpetrators of these appalling acts to justice.

“It is simply not acceptable that women and girls can be subjected to this kind of invasion of privacy for the sexual gratification of a third party, they deserve appropriate protection in law.”