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Almost one upskirt allegation made to police every day since new law, data shows

Upskirting is now a specific criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to two years in custody. Credit: PA

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.

Credit: PA Graphics

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.

Upskirting campaigner Gina Martin, with the support of her lawyer Ryan Whelan, launched the campaign to make upskirting illegal. Credit: Alvin Williams/PA

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.

Police said there were some examples of police taking upskirt photos which suspects threatened to post on the internet. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Campaigner Ms Martin, 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.