Last April the Voyeurism (Offences) Act came into force. Previously, the lack of a specific upskirting law meant police were unsure how to deal with allegations, and therefore many crimes went unreported. But what impact has the new law had?
Figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the PA news agency, show that almost one victim a day has contacted police since its introduction.
In Gloucestershire, police received eight reports of upskirting in the first 182 days after the Act came into force.
Police were unable to provide any information about the victims or the outcomes of any of the cases.
In Avon and Somerset, police received 12 reports of upskirting.
Teenagers aged 14 and 15 and a 74-year-old woman were among the victims, all of whom were female.
Only one of the cases resulted in police action.
In Wiltshire, police received three reports in the same time.
One of the incidents involved a 38-year-old woman, who 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.
In another incident, a 29-year-old woman said she was a victim of upskirting while at a swimming pool changing room, while an unknown woman in the third case said a male used a phone to take a picture below her skirt.
There were no convictions.
Across England, 153 allegations were made over the period, although two large police forces – London’s Metropolitan Police Service and Bedfordshire Police – refused to respond to the information request, meaning the true number could be much higher.
The vast majority of incidents involved female victims, taking place in schools, shopping centres and other public spaces.
Under the new law, a conviction at the magistrates’ court would carry a sentence of up to one year in prison and could include 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 Gina 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.”
Separate data from the Crown Prosecution Service showed that 10 men were convicted of 16 offences in 2019.