Almost daily allegation of ‘upskirting’ in six months since new law introduced
Schoolchildren were among alleged victims who contacted police in England and Wales in the six months since the creation of the new upskirting law, an investigation has found.
The first figures on the impact of the Voyeurism (Offences) Act, obtained by the PA news agency, show that almost one victim a day has contacted police since its introduction in April 2019.
Gina Martin, who led the campaign against upskirting, praised the impact of the law on bringing perpetrators to justice.
Data obtained under Freedom of Information laws from 35 police forces found there had been 153 incidents reported to them in the 182 days since the law was created.
This was up from 94 incidents among 25 constabularies with available data during 2018, the year before the ban was introduced, and up from 78 reports over the two-year period from April 2015 to April 2017.
Campaigners previously complained that the lack of a specific upskirting law meant police were unsure how to deal with allegations, and therefore many crimes went unreported.
New data shows the vast majority of incidents between April and October 2019 involved female victims, taking place in schools, shopping centres and other public places.
Avon and Somerset Police said a 74-year-old woman was among those targeted by the cruel craze, which often sees a perpetrator use a recording device such as a camera phone to take explicit images underneath a victim’s clothing, without permission and often undetected.
Several forces reported teenage victims among those caught up in investigations, which included a 15-year-old boy, according to West Midlands Police, while Sussex Police said a 14-year-old girl on a bus was among the victims.
Elsewhere, Hertfordshire Police said one of two upskirting incidents in the force area involved a 15-year-old boy taking an image of a 15-year-old girl while she was either drunk or asleep, before threatening to circulate the photos on social media.
Dorset Police said the youngest victim reported to them was aged between 10 and 18, but declined to provide further information.
Separate data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) showed that 10 men were convicted of 16 offences in 2019.
This included convicted paedophile Stuart Bulling, the first person jailed under the new law, after he was caught following teenage girls around a supermarket in Lancashire, in September, the CPS said.
Trevor Beasley, 51, was also jailed, for filming under women’s skirts in Burgh Heath, Surrey.
Police subsequently found 250,000 indecent images of children on his devices.
He had previously been convicted of upskirting in 2016 under the old charge of outraging public decency.
Under the new law, a conviction at the magistrates’ court would carry a sentence of up to one year in prison and/or a fine.
A more serious offence, tried in the crown court, can carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.
The Voyeurism Act also allows upskirting to be treated as a sexual offence and ensure that the most serious offenders are placed on the sex offenders register.
Campaigner Ms Martin (pictured), who spent nearly two years fighting to create a specific upskirting law after two men who took a picture up her skirt at a festival in 2017 went unpunished, welcomed the statistics.
She said: “The Voyeurism Act only came into use eight months ago and the difference in charges and reporting is already up greatly.
“Among those who were charged was a convicted paedophile and a man who police subsequently found had 250,000 indecent images of children.
“Upskirting doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
“Sexual assault and violence is all linked, and I’m just so happy this law is holding those who perpetrate it accountable.”
Several police forces provided patchwork or incomplete data to PA, meaning it was not possible to establish how many allegations resulted in a criminal charge, a caution, or even a suspect being identified, as well as details about the victim or the location.
However, the data frequently cited “evidential difficulties” preventing cases progressing.
All 43 police forces in England and Wales were contacted under FoI laws.
Six said they had no evidence of such crimes being reported, while two forces – Bedfordshire and the Metropolitan Police, the country’s largest constabulary – refused to provide information.
It means the number of allegations is likely to be much higher.
Force by force: Breakdown of offences reported
There were more than 150 allegations of upskirting made to police in England and Wales in the six months since the new law in April last year.
Here is a force-by-force breakdown, for those with information.
Avon and Somerset:
Teenagers aged 14 and 15 were among the victims, alongside a 74-year-old. All victims were female, where known, while only one of the 12 cases resulted in action. More incidents (six) took place in June than any other month.
The four incidents took place at a variety of locations, including at a busy shopping centre, and at a school – the latter involved the suspect sharing the photo on social media. Each time, the victim was female. The incidents took place between June and July.
Five females were upskirting victims, four of which were aged between 15 and 17. One of the incidents took place while the victim was at the supermarket. No charges have been brought, although some cases are described as ongoing.
City of London:
Two incidents reported, in June and August. No suspect was identified in the first case, while a suspect arrested in the second case was released without charge.
Two incidents reported, although police were unable to provide further details.
Devon and Cornwall:
Of the seven female victims, five were teenagers – including a 13-year-old. No suspect was found for five of the cases, although two remain under investigation.
All three alleged upskirting victims were female, one aged between 10 and 18, and two aged 19-25. No further details were provided.
All seven victims were female, and five were under the age of 16. The other two were aged over 30. The younger victims all reported male pupils attempting to or taking photographs while at school, while the adult victims said they were targeted in busy public spaces – although no suspect was identified in either case. One of the school incidents resulted in “diversionary, education or intervention activity”. The rest are yet to be resolved.
There were eight incidents, but no further details available.
Greater Manchester Police:
Two incidents were reported, both within three weeks of the new upskirting law coming into force. One victim was aged 14 although details about the other are unknown.
There were two cases, in August and September, although no further details were provided by police.
Two incidents were reported but no further details were provided.
One of the two incidents involved a 15-year-old boy taking an image of a 15-year-old girl while she was either drunk or asleep. Police said the suspect threatened to circulate the photos on social media. The crime was confirmed, but the victim either declined or was unable to support further investigation. The other incident involved a 50-year-old woman who allegedly had a picture taken up her skirt as she was shopping for clothes in Oxfam. The victim said to the offender “did you just try to take a picture of me up my skirt?” prompting the suspect to run out of the shop. Police were unable to identify the suspect.
Some 13 incidents were reported in six months, although there were few details. One case resulted in an adult caution, while evidential difficulties prevented further action in five other cases. There were no convictions recorded.
Five teenagers, aged between 13 and 17, were among the 10 alleged upskirting victims recorded in Kent during a six-month period. Four of the incidents took place in May, with three in September. All victims were female. Evidential difficulties resulted in five cases being unable to proceed to criminal convictions, while three remain under investigation.
Five upskirting incidents were reported in the six months since the new law was introduced – no further details were provided, however.
Seven women aged 18 to 55 were alleged upskirting victims. Complainants said they were targeted on the bus, in a communal toilet, and watching a sporting event. There were no further details about any charges.
One upskirting crime was recorded, but no suspect was identified. There were no further details.
Three people were arrested for five upskirting incidents, although none have been convicted. No further details were available.
One incident was recorded, in June, in which a female noticed a recording device was placed on the floor to record up her skirt. The matter remains under investigation.
A 16-year-old girl was the alleged victim of upskirting in May. No criminal charge was brought.
The four victims were aged between 21 and 53, and all were women. One incident took place in a residential property, while another happened on a dance floor. No details about criminal proceedings were provided by police.
One of the four incidents involved a male victim. Police said the victims were aged 21, 28 and 38, with another unknown. Two suspects were consequently charged, police said.
Four incidents of upskirting were reported, although there was no further information available.
Four incidents were reported, three of which involved female victims – a fourth was unrecorded. Probes into two incidents broke down due to either evidential difficulties or a lack of suspect being identified, although the result of the other two were unrecorded.
The only case reported to police, in September, involved an unknown offender using a mobile phone to take a photograph.
A 43-year-old woman was the victim of an alleged upskirting offence when a suspect used a telephone camera to film or photograph her. Police said the suspect was identified, but there were evidential difficulties.
One of the four incidents resulted in a charge, when a suspect carried out an alleged upskirting offence on a 16-year-old girl in July. The three other incidents, involving females, resulted in no charge.
A 14-year-old girl on a bus was among the alleged upskirting victims in the six months since the ban was introduced, although no suspect was identified to bring a prosecution. Of the remaining four incidents, two continue to be investigated. The victims, where known, were aged between 14 and 33, with alleged offences also being carried out in an office and in shops.
Thames Valley Police:
Six incidents were reported, though no details were available.
Only one of six incidents reported to West Yorkshire Police resulted in a charge. It involved an 18-year-old woman who had upskirting pictures taken of her while she was on a bus. Of the other five incidents, all victims were female, aged between 21 and 36. Evidential difficulties prevented three cases progressing, while the other two failed when no suspect was identified.
A 15-year-old boy was among the victims of upskirting, according to the force records. No further details about the incident were available. It was one of three upskirting incidents reported to police, the other involving a 19-year-old woman and another female whose age was unknown. There were no charges.
A 38-year-old woman told police a man placed his mobile phone on the floor and slid it towards her when she was bending down to tie her children’s shoelaces, attempting to film under her dress. Police identified a suspect but said there were evidential difficulties. A 29-year-old woman said she was a victim of upskirting while at a swimming pool changing room, while an unknown woman said a male used a phone to take a picture below her skirt. There were no convictions.
There were five reported incidents, although no further details were provided.
Two upskirting allegations were made to Warwickshire police. No details were provided.
All 43 police forces in England and Wales were asked to provide details of upskirting allegations reported to them in the six months since the introduction of the new law in April 2019.
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