Pensioners and schoolgirls victims of upskirting as an offence a day reported

10 January 2020, 07:27

A 74 year old pensioner was the oldest victim
A 74 year old pensioner was the oldest victim. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A pensioner and children as young as 10 were among the increasing number of upskirting victims with one person a day reporting an offence.

In the six months since the creation of the new upskirting law 153 incidents were reported to officers, with schoolchildren among those reporting offences.

The impact of the Voyeurism (Offences) Act show that almost one person a day has reported offences to police in the 182 days since the act became law.

Gina Martin led the drive to change that after a picture was taken up her skirt at a festival in 2017, she said it was impossible to understand the scale of the offence before.

She said: "Upskirting didn't even exist in law as language so it was impossible to get a number that represented the problem."

Data obtained under Freedom of Information laws from 35 police forces found there had been 153 incidents reported to them since the law came into force in April 2019.

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.

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.

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 refused to provide data on the number of offences, meaning the true number could be much higher.