'The law is on your side' - Dame Vera Baird speaks as upskirting becomes illegal as specific criminal offence

A new dedicated upskirting law has come into force in England and Wales today.

Friday, 12th April 2019, 09:18 am
Updated Friday, 12th April 2019, 09:24 am
Dame Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria.

A high-profile campaign, which was supported by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, led to a change in the law.

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

The invasive practice of taking a picture or video up somebody's clothing has become a specific criminal offence. Picture: PA.

According to figures obtained by the Press Association using Freedom of Information laws, Northumbria Police had one such incident recorded in 2018.

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This involved a boy who laid a mobile phone on the ground and filmed up a girl's skirt. Both parties were under 16 and no charges were made.

Dame Vera hopes the new law will encourage upskirting victims to report it.

She said: "Upskirting is an act of seeking sexual gratification without consent. It can be extremely distressing for victims and until now the law hasn’t been fit for purpose.

“I hope that recognising this disgusting practice as a criminal offence gives victims the confidence to come forward and report this awful crime – finally the law is on your side.”

Previously, anyone in England and Wales who fell victim to the cruel craze could explore possible convictions for the likes of voyeurism, public disorder or indecency.

But campaigners said this was inadequate because criteria for a conviction down these channels - such as the incident being witnessed by other people - is not always available.

Anybody now prosecuted for the offence could face up to two years in prison and be placed on the sex offenders register.