Upskirting becomes criminal offence with possible jail term of up to two years

A woman wearing a skirt Credit: PA

Upskirting has been made a specific criminal offence after a bill to ban the cruel craze received Royal Assent in the House of Lords.

Police will be able to charge people with the offence from April, and those convicted could face up to two years in prison.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that those convicted of the most serious case will be made to sign the Sex Offenders Register.

Television personalities have voiced their delight at the act being passed. Holly Willoughby, Dermot O'Leary and Laura Whitmore took part in a film shared by the Ministry of Justice.

Gina Martin, who first campaigned for the law after becoming a victim of upskirting, joined the prominent voices in urging people to report cases of upskirting saying: "The more people that report this happening, the better we can deal with it and the quicker we can stop it."

The campaigner added: "We should see this campaign as not only essential legislative change, but also proof that normal people and grassroots campaigning can make a real difference."

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "very pleased to see the degrading practice of upskirting become a criminal offence after the tireless work of victims and campaigners."

Campaigner Gina Martin and lawyer Ryan Whelan fought for the law to be passed. Credit: PA

What is upskirting?

Upskirting typically involves offenders taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks.

The new law will ban the degrading practice to deter perpetrators, better protect victims, and bring more offenders to justice.

It was previously announced the law will extend to photos taken up kilts.

How did the law come about?

The change in law follows an 18-month campaign by Gina Martin, herself upskirted at a music festival in London.

Ms Martin's suggestion for the legal change was put forward to the Commons by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse as a Private Members Bill, but the bill failed to pass its second reading when Conservative MP Christopher Chope objected.

The Christchurch MP is known for objecting to Private Members Bills, last week preventing the debate over a proposal to change the law on Female Genital Mutilation.

Sir Christopher Chope was widely condemned for the objection to bill. Credit: PA

The Government then said it would back the legislation, helping it through both Houses.

On Tuesday, the Queen signed the legislation into law.

From the passing of the Act of Parliament, it takes two months for the Bill to become law, meaning police will be able to arrest people for the offence from mid- April.

Despite Mr Chope's action, Ms Martin said his outspokenness had actually helped the campaign "go stratospheric," raising its profile and helping ensure it became a specific offence.

At the time of the objection, Caroline Lucas MP posted an image women's underwear placed on Mr Chope's parliamentary office door.

Why has it been made a specific offence?

Victims called for the creation of a specific law after becoming frustrated with a lack of options to prosecute perpetrators.

While some people were able to seek a conviction under harassment, voyeurism or outraging public decency laws, the creation of a specific offence means suspects can be prosecuted where they sought to obtain sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress or alarm.

Earlier this month, a man was fined under public decency laws for upskirting at London Victoria station, but he was charged under the existing legal framework, not a specific offence.

This law consolidates the options of people who have been upskirted, meaning convictions for the offence can can be brought to court under specific legislation.