Plans for upskirting laws welcomed by campaigners

Gina Martin and lawyer Ryan Whelan welcomed the news (Alvin Williams/PA) Credit: Press Association Images

Campaigners have hailed Government plans to ban upskirting as a “great day” for all “right-thinking individuals”.

Ministers announced a new law would be introduced after a Tory MP blocked a backbench Bill to ban the practice of surreptitiously taking photos of underwear.

Sir Christopher Chope faced a furious backlash after he effectively killed off the proposed legislation last Friday and his parliamentary office has since been adorned with four pairs of knickers, bound together with a pink ribbon, in protest.

Officials said an upskirting Bill would mean perpetrators were “properly punished”.

Gina Martin, an upskirting victim whose petition to criminalise the act won her a legion of celebrity supporters and political backing, welcomed the “brilliant news”.

She said: “I kept going because I didn’t want to brush it off again and say ‘this is just part of life’.

“I kept going because we needed a change.”

Ryan Whelan, Ms Martin’s lawyer, said: “This is a great day, not only for women, but for all right-thinking individuals and justice itself.

“The gap in the law that existed was an affront to the English criminal law and it is right and proper that the Government has decided to act.”

Prime Minister Theresa May told Cabinet that upskirting was “an invasion of privacy that leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed”, her spokesman told reporters.

Sir Christopher stopped the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill from completing its second reading in the Commons on Friday by calling out “Object!”

The move caused outrage and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom told the regular weekly meeting of Cabinet that the upskirting legislation would now be adopted as a Government Bill to improve its chances of becoming law.

Mrs Leadsom said it was intended to secure a second reading in the Commons for the Bill in Government time as soon as possible and certainly before the summer recess, which begins on July 28.

A former deputy speaker of the House of Commons called for a change to the “arcane” procedures that allowed Sir Christopher to block the legislation bill with a single word.

Nigel Evans wrote to the Commons Procedure Committee to demand a review of Parliament’s rules, saying a number of “decent” private members’ bills had been blocked in the same way.

Sir Christopher insisted that he supported the Bill’s purpose of outlawing the practice of taking photographs up someone’s clothing without consent, but was acting on a long-held principle that has seen him routinely oppose backbench bills.

The Christchurch MP complained that he was being “scapegoated” over the issue and urged the Government to find the “fastest, fairest and surest passage” for a Bill banning the practice.

But fellow Dorset Tory MP Simon Hoare suggested Sir Christopher should apologise.

“Sorry really is the hardest word. Put the shovel down, apologise and learn,” he said.

Green MP Caroline Lucas, who has an office near Sir Christopher, took a photo of the knickers adorning it and said: “Good to see some redecorating happening in my corridor over the weekend.”

It followed a similar protest outside the Tory MP’s constituency office at the weekend.

Without a specific law, victims in England and Wales must seek prosecution of upskirting through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment.

Legislation in Scotland provides for a maximum two-year jail sentence.