Upskirt photographs

I agree that the disgraceful practice of “upskirting” should be a specific sexual offence in law. Upskirting is humiliating for victims and a huge invasion of their privacy.

I am aware that a Private Members’ Bill has been introduced in the House of Commons which aims to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to make certain acts of voyeurism – including upskirting – an offence. However, as criminal justice is a devolved matter in Scotland, this Bill would extend to England and Wales only.

Indeed, upskirting – alongside the distribution of photographs resulting from the action – is already a criminal offence in Scotland under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, as amended by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

I share your disappointment that there is currently a gap in the law in England and Wales that has allowed, and is continuing to allow, people who have taken upskirt photographs in public places to escape prosecution there.

I would welcome a change to the law in England and Wales along the same lines as in Scotland. However, the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill is very low on the order paper for 11 May and is therefore unlikely to be debated. Nevertheless, the UK Government has said that it is reviewing existing laws in this area in relation to England and Wales and that it is looking at the issues raised by the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill. I will follow any progress on this closely.

More widely, violence against women and girls continues to be a global epidemic affecting one in three women worldwide. That is why I am proud that my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament have secured three-year rolling funding from the Scottish Government for Violence Against Women organisations in Scotland to ensure they can plan for the long term to help women and girls.