'Taking upskirt photographs should be a specific sexual offence'

There are calls to make taking 'upskirt' photos without permission a separate criminal offence.
There are calls to make taking 'upskirt' photos without permission a separate criminal offence.
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Taking "upskirt" photographs of unsuspecting women should become a specific sexual offence, Labour has said.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has called on ministers to close a "gap in the law" to prevent the "disgraceful, invasive" practice of taking photos under women's dresses without their permission.

In a letter to Justice Secretary David Lidington, Mr Burgon said the law needed to be clarified to offer women greater protection and to ensure offenders are punished.

More than 58,000 people have signed a petition to add the offence to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 started by Gina Martin, from London.

She discovered men had taken photographs up her skirt when she was attending the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park last month.

Mr Burgon said: "I am writing in support of the campaign, started by Gina Martin, to make disgraceful, invasive "upskirting" photographs a sexual offence in law.

"The scope for people to take 'upskirting' photographs has clearly increased with developments in mobile phone technology since the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

"At present, there is a gap in the law that has allowed - and is continuing to allow - people who have taken such photographs in public places to escape prosecution. This needs to be changed."

He told Mr Lidington: "Given the very welcome public interest in - and support for - this campaign, I have made this letter public, and hope that you will publicly respond very soon with an announcement of plans to change the law so that the taking of 'upskirting' photographs is a sexual offence in law."

Ms Martin, writing on her online petition, said she saw the men sending an image taken up her skirt to each other and snatched one of their phones so she could report it to security.

She said the law needs to reflect that the offence was "a sexual offence with a victim".

Ms Martin, 25, told the Press Association: "So many women go through different types of sexual harassment in their lives.

"It's a common thing and that is obviously incredibly sad and disappointing.

"A lot of women brush it off and say it's part of life but it's not. That's why we need the law to change.

"The police need clarity and women need to be clearer that it is against the law. It's such a grey area."

Ms Martin, a freelance writer from London, said the response to her campaign had been "incredibly supportive" and she welcomed support from Labour and other MPs.

She was unable to comment on her own case, which she said is currently under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.