Sunak pledges to make downblousing criminal offence in crackdown on sex offenders

27 July 2022, 22:23

Rishi Sunak has pledged to make downblousing a criminal offence
Rishi Sunak has pledged to make downblousing a criminal offence. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak has vowed to make downblousing a criminal offence as part of a crackdown on sex offenders to protect women and girls.

The former Chancellor said that he would make the act of taking photos down a woman's top without consent - known as "downblousing" - illegal, if he becomes PM.

At the moment in England and Wales, acts such as upskirting or voyeurism are criminalised but downblousing is not covered.

Mr Sunak also said he would create an emergency taskforce to hunt down grooming gangs.

It comes after his rival - Liz Truss - vowed to crack down on catcalling and wolf-whistling if she won the Tory leadership contest.

Read more: Truss vows to outlaw catcalling and wolf-whistling as part of crackdown on misogyny

Read more: Clash of the Tories: Sunak and Truss spar over tax and Boris in brutal debate

Mr Sunak said: "Sexual violence against women and girls should be treated as a national emergency until it has been defeated.

"As a father of two girls, I want them to be able to go for a walk in the evening or to a shop at night without any fear of threat.

"As Chancellor, I boosted support for victims to record levels - quadruple those under Labour - and a ground-breaking new approach to policing which is helping drive up prosecutions of sex offenders.

"As Prime Minister, I will go further. I will make it a criminal offence if you harass women by taking intimate images of them without their consent, and will introduce a major crackdown on grooming gangs.

"We can not let sensitivities over race stop us from catching dangerous criminals who prey on women, and I will not stop until we live in a society where women and girls can go about their daily lives feeling safe and secure."

As part of his crackdown, Mr Sunak said the emergency taskforce would work at the heart of the National Crime Agency, launching an investigation into any town or city where significant grooming gang activity has been found.

Suspects would be forced to explain why they have the phone numbers or contact details of children, and would have to reveal their ethnicity or nationality for the purposes of crime prevention.

The former Chancellor also plans to launch a national grooming gangs whistleblower network to help gather intelligence on gangs and create a dedicated database to help the police monitor suspects.

In order to help police identify victims of grooming gangs, Mr Sunak would boost their training, reminding officers to serve without fear or favour, including the fear of being accused of racism.

He would also pass the Bill of Rights to prevent foreign perpetrators using the Human Rights Act to frustrate their deportation order.

In a bid to support victims of sexual assault, a Sunak government would also extend mental health support for rape victims and ensure all survivors of sexual violence have access to same-sex spaces, the Richmond MP announced.

Meanwhile, Ms Truss has vowed to better protect women and girls from violence and abuse, claiming it is the responsibility of all political leaders to "do more".

She said that over the last two years, the nation has been "shocked" by the number of high profile murders of women, many in London.

Under her plans, a standalone offence to criminalise harassment would be introduced alongside a domestic abuse register, which would include coercive and controlling behaviour and financial abuse.

She says it would break the cycle of repeat offending.