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Upskirting Law and Your Rights

UK law refers to the taking of unauthorised pictures up a woman's skirt as 'upskirting'. It has now become illegal to take a picture up someone's skirt in England and Wales.

Information in this guide explains what upskirting is and your rights as a victim. The new law on upskirting hands out severe punishment to perpetrators of this intrusive practice.

So, What Exactly is Upskirting Definition?

Victims describe upskirting as an intrusive and invasive practice. In most cases, it involves the taking of pictures or videos in a surreptitious manner.

Taking photos ‘surreptitiously’ means it’s done in a way that attempts to avoid attention or notice (e.g. secretively).

In short, perpetrators who upskirt will be trying to get secret pictures of their victims without their knowledge or permission.

The focus of attention will be the underneath of someone else’s clothing. The intention is to view their genitals or buttocks (whether they are wearing underwear or not).

Upskirting takes place in a wide range of locations. But, the common places include busy areas such as schools, bus terminals, and train stations.

The Ministry of Justice announced changes to the upskirting law in United Kingdom. They take full effect from the 12th of April 2019.

The new law captures instances where the purpose of the behaviour is to “obtain sexual gratification, or to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation”.

Effect of Upskirting on the Victims

The victims of upskirting can be anyone, of any age or gender. But, they all share similar effects that upskirting can have upon its victims. They find it to be a humiliating violation of privacy and a distressing experience.

Note: The Ministry of Justice want victims to feel confident that any reports they make will be taken seriously by all police forces in the United Kingdom.

Punishment for Perpetrators of Upskirting

Criminalisation of this distressing practice should help to deter people from committing these types of crimes. In fact, from April 2019 the punishment for perpetrators of upskirting in England and Wales will be two (2) years in prison.

Harsher penalties also exist for cases of upskirting committed to obtain sexual gratification. In such cases, serious offenders could find themselves placed on the sex offenders register.

The new law on upskirting sends a clear message that this kind of behaviour is criminal and will not be tolerated in society.

Help and Support for Upskirting Victims

So the question is, what can you do as a victim of upskirting? Help and support is available from the police and from other organisations.

The advice from experts is to seek support as a victim of crime instead of suffering in silence. It may be helpful to speak to someone that you already know and trust. In other cases, it may be easier to get in touch with a charity.

Either way, it is important to know your rights after a crime takes place. The will police help you understand this process.

Victims of upskirting get automatic protection (e.g. from identification in the media). It means they would not be able to publish any identifying details (e.g. your name, address, or photos).

Why the Law Changed in England and Wales

Upskirting did not go unpunished in England and Wales. In certain circumstances, prosecution came through the common law offence of outraging public decency.

But, a review of the law occurred as a result of concerns expressed by victims. The review found that the existing criminal law was unable to capture all instances.

More commonly known as the Upskirting Bill, the government introduced the Voyeurism Offences Act on the 21st of June 2018. It takes full effect from the 12th of April 2019.

Note: The brief video [1:35 seconds] explains more about UK upskirting laws and why they needed to change.

Upskirting Law in the United Kingdom