Europe is taking Upskirting more Seriously

The relatively new practice of covertly photographing a woman’s underwear by upskirting, taking a photograph covertly up the skirt of a person without the knowledge or consent of the individual, is viewed differently in different countries. Across Europe it is regarded as various criminal offences  - sexual abuse; voyeurism; cybercrime (if dispersed across social media or other internet sites); outraging public decency and in some countries it is not a criminal offence at all but simply a petty misdemeanour. 

Following Gina Martin’s dogged campaign in England and Wales the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 criminalises the act of upskirting and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and can lead to the perpetrator being added to the Violent and Sexual Register. 

The head of Giambrone’s criminal team in Barcelona, Graziano Cecchetti, believes that the  recent arrest of a Columbian man in Madrid who was subsequently found to have 550 images of women, which he had taken over the course of a year, will lead to an array of charges, starting with breach of privacy under article 197 of the Spanish Criminal Code.  Graziano commented “the initial offence was aggravated by the circulation of the images across the internet, including posting the images on 283 pornographic websites, in the full knowledge of the illicit origin of the images and that the women involved were unaware that they had been photographed; the offence is compounded by the fact that at least two of his victims are known to be minors.  The courts will no doubt take the view that such behaviour falls into the most serious category which carries a sentence of several years imprisonment and can include a fine”

Victims of this offence frequently complain that they are not taken seriously and that both the police and the courts regard upskirting as just laddish behaviour or a harmless prank unless it is accompanied by other actions such as touching or circulating the images across social media.  There is a growing demand for the authorities to take this type of abuse far more seriously and in Germany, where upskirting is regarded as a petty misdemeanour, unless it is accompanied by other actions, there is a mounting campaign, organised by two women, Hanna Seidal and Ida Sassenberg, who found themselves victims, to make such actions a criminal offence.   France is about to make capturing immodest images by way of upskirting a criminal offence of carrying a sentence of one year, together with a fine, the prison sentence and fine can increase to two years in more extreme cases.  Northern Ireland does not have an offence specifically relating to upskirting but places it into the category of outraging public decency.  A young man in Enniskillen was charged and found guilty of five counts of committing an act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature and outraging public decency offences relating to his activities when he was a 15-year-old schoolboy taking upskirting photographs of two of his teachers.

The slowly changing attitude to what had previously been considered to be a trivial antic should be noted and it should be recognised that the authorities may no longer take the view such behaviour is no more than a practical joke.

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