We now resume our public sitting and hear evidence from Gina Martin. Before calling the first Member to ask a question, it says here, rather pompously, that I have to remind all Members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill and that we must—this is important—stick to the timings in the sittings motion that the Committee has agreed, otherwise we shall overrun and not have the time to afford our guests the courtesy of the proper opportunity to answer questions. Ms Martin, thank you very much for joining us.
Good morning. Thank you for coming. You said that your experience demonstrated the need for a specific victim-centred offence to cover upskirting. To what extent do you think the Bill achieves that aimQ ?
When I was upskirted—when it happened to me—it was obvious that it was to humiliate me. The pictures were taken up my skirt and passed to people around me, and it was done in response to my rebuffing their sexual advances. My aim, from the beginning, was to work on a Bill with everyone here to cover different situations. I believe the Bill does that because it covers humiliation, distress or alarm.
Q Do you think the Bill strikes the right balance between protecting the victim and protecting individuals who accidentally take such images?
Thank you very much for coming in, Gina, and for everything you have done to campaign on this issue and to raise awareness—that is the reason we are here today.Q
Do you think the impact of the Government seeking to bring in this new legislation as soon as possible will be on the side of victims? Do you think this is the right direction to go? I would like to hear your views on whether you think we are doing the right thing, essentially.
I do, yes, and I think the point you made that the speed at which we do this should be as quick as possible is really important. Upskirting happened to me at a festival a year ago yesterday, and yesterday, Sunday, I received a message from a 16-year-old girl who went to the very same festival, where it happened to her twice by the same person. That shows that this is happening as we sit here and are dealing with it. What we are doing now is absolutely imperative.
Q In terms of ensuring we close this particular loophole in the law, which you have rightly exposed, do you think we need to keep the focus particularly on the issue of upskirting, to ensure that we can get the Bill passed as quickly as possible and also send out a clear message that this type of behaviour is unacceptable?
That is incredibly important to me. I think it has to be focused, it has to be simple and it has to focus on this one issue. We all know there are other broader issues that we want to focus on, but this is an upskirting Bill and it has to focus on just that.
Women’s Aid and Professor Clare McGlynn have argued that the Bill’s scope needs to be extended so that victims of all image-based sexual offences have the right of anonymity in court. What are your views on thisQ ?
Again, we need to deal with a lot of valuable issues. Do I think this Bill needs to cover all of them now? No, I think this is an upskirting Bill and the most important thing is that we cover this problem quickly and simply, and afford women the protection they deserve as soon as possible. I would argue that this is a Bill about upskirting and that those issues that Clare has brought forward should be dealt with properly and with scrutiny at a later date.
It was really disturbing when we discussed this and you relayed how it had happened to you. Part of this was the pressure of people around you. It was quite a physical event for you. There seem to be two elements to this: the upskirting and the taking of the photograph to humiliate you and the passing around. How do you view those two incidents in terms of the humiliation aspect, or is there no differenceQ at all?
It is very difficult. I think the feeling of harassment was compounded. I have not separated out in my mind which I think was worse, because it was just a very horrible blurry event. I just hated all of it, if I am being totally honest. That is my very human response to it.
Hello Gina. One of the debates in relation to the Bill is about the concept of motivation, about whether we need to set out in law reasons why people do what you are talking about and, therefore, why that is wrong. We are debating whether we need to do that or simply to say that this, in and of itself, is wrong whether a person does it because they want to humiliate someone, because they find the pictures sexually exciting or because they will make money out of them. What is your viewQ on that?
That is a question that is more for a lawyer. I am not a lawyer, and I am not going to sit here and talk about the legislation in detail. One thing you touched on there was monetary gain. I would like to say categorically that of course I would like to see that we could prosecute at some point the paparazzi and photographers who do this. I am of the understanding that that needs to be done very, very carefully, with a lot of detail, to ensure that there are no unexpected consequences. I do not necessarily think that we should delay this process to look at that specifically—that is for another time.
Also, having worked specifically in the media for a very long time, I am very aware that if one celebrity decided to prosecute and raised charges using outraging public decency against paparazzi that would change very quickly. There is a big amount of education that needs to go on in that area. That is my feeling on that.
You, of course, and we share this feeling, want it to stop, right? But one of the things the Bill has to look at is the consequences for the individual. In the Bill as drafted, someone goes on the sexual offenders register only in the event that the offence was committed for the purpose mentioned in proposed new section 67A: sexual gratification. To put that in plain English, perverts go on the register but idiots do not. So, if someone is at a festival and they are just being idiotic and are humiliating and distressing girls, but that is their principal motivation rather than a sexual one, they do not go on the register. Are you comfortable with that? Do you think it strikes the right balance? Do you have any other viewsQ ?
I am pretty comfortable with that, but again, it is something we need to look at more specifically. I am here to give my evidence as a human, not to give strong evidence specifically on the Bill.
Q Sure, but what I am really interested in is you as a victim. Victims need to get a sense of justice, so they will want to have a view on whether the punishment fits the crime. We know that someone can go inside for this, so that is one aspect of it, but equally someone could go on the register for a long time, which is a big stigma and burden. Where do you think the right balance is struck? Do you think that the Bill has it broadly right, where it says that it is for people who are doing it for sexual motivations but not for those who are just being idiotic and offensive?
Yes, because I think that if it is for sexual gratification it is a more serious offence, because it is often done multiple times and is a pattern of behaviour. That is where we go to more robust punishments. For me, personally, the Bill does strike the right balance.
We have already touched, forgive me, on the issue of motivation, but I think this is going to be critical to our considerations in this Bill Committee. As the Bill stands, it will need to be proven that there is either a sexual motivation or harassment. Do you have any concerns that a defence for people accused of this offence might be that it was accidental, and that that remains a loophole that needs to be addressedQ ?
I have spent enough hours sitting in enough meetings with my lawyer, Ryan, to understand that that is not something that needs to be worried about massively. Again, I am not a lawyer. There are ways of dealing with it and understanding case by case what happened. It is not the top concern that that would be an issue. That is my understanding.
Q My second question is that if the taking of the photo is then found to be a crime with whichever motivations are finally accepted, to what degree, from the victim’s point of view, does distribution constitute harassment? Will that cause distress, and should the act of distribution, therefore, be considered within the Bill?
For me, it is really important that the Bill sets out the intent and the action. Distribution is obviously distressing. I work specifically in digital and social media—that is my job—and a lot of work and education need to be done there to address this. It is really important to me that the Bill looks carefully at stopping and deterring people from committing the act in the first place.
WeQ will hear evidence this afternoon that there should be stronger penalties for those who take images of under-18s. On the Women and Equalities Committee, we heard evidence during an inquiry about how prevalent this is for younger people, even at school age. What is your view on the impact that the Bill should have in protecting people under 18 who are caught up in this?
Q For young people who may not understand the implications of what they do at a very young age, does there need to be some leeway, rather than criminalising people who may make a genuine mistake when they are younger and who, when they were a little older, would never consider doing something such as upskirting? Does the Bill protect those who make a genuine mistake?
I feel it does that well. Again, my understanding—having worked on this for a year with great lawyers who know the details of the Bill, the situation and the offence very well—is that each prosecution is dealt with objectively by looking at the situation. As with any law, we would not prosecute kids how we prosecute adults. The Bill does that really well.
Q The moment has sort of passed, but the issue has not. Would you not have felt as humiliated and distressed if somebody’s motivation for taking the image was just financial gain?
We were talking about motivation. The Bill covers two different motivations: to humiliate and cause distress and for sexual gratification. We are also looking at the possibility of other motivations, for example if somebody says, “I didn’t even know that person. I didn’t want to humiliate her and I don’t get very excited about the image, but somebody offered me money.” Would it not have distressed you in the same way if it had been done with another motivation?
I do not want to sit here and imagine how I would feel if I were the victim of that exact scenario. That has been a big problem that I have dealt with—people trying to guess exactly how I felt during the situation—but it is important to remember that there could be a lot of unintended consequences from looking for solutions to the monetary gain situation.
We do not want the paparazzi to be charged as sex offenders for doing their job. We can all agree that that is not a great job to do—I do not agree with it—but they could be charged as sex offenders. They should be able to be prosecuted for outraging public decency, which they can be, and I have worked closely with celebrities who have been through that. They have talked to me in confidence about it, and they have said that because of this campaign, they have considered prosecuting for outraging public decency, which is great.
Q But we have just established that outraging public decency would not have properly covered what was done to you. Is going back and saying, “Well, they can be covered under outraging public decency,” not the same as saying, “I don’t care about anybody else because this specific thing has happened to us.”?
No, not necessarily. I could have prosecuted under outraging public decency, because there were two or more people there to witness what happened to me, but I did not because the police were confused about the grey area of the law. I never did this to cover my own situation; I did it to cover every instance and help other women as well. I could have prosecuted under outraging public decency, if I had chosen to.
Q We have just established that we are introducing a new Bill because that was not good enough to help you to prosecute somebody who committed an offence. Should we not then look at another group of women? I understand that you had a particular issue yourself, but is this law not there to cover not just the individual case that you experienced, but other victims who are not exactly like you but who would feel similarly distressed if it happened to them?
Yes, absolutely, but having worked with women who it has happened to for monetary gain, I believe that there is a way of doing it that is just as valuable but that does not delay this Bill or mean looking into it in this Bill. That is the truth.
I am absolutely worried about the delay of the Bill. I do not think we should delay this protection being afforded to women in order to look at that, because it needs to be looked at in detail. Also, it would take one celebrity to table a report of outraging public decency to stop this happening. I have discussed that at length with the media and people this has been done to by the paparazzi.
Q On the paparazzi point, the Bill says that a person commits an offence if he
“does so with the intention” that he, or another person he has passed it on to, will look at the image
“for a purpose mentioned in subsection (3)”— that is, for sexual gratification or “humiliating, alarming or distressing” the person. In other words, if a pap takes the image and sends it on to somebody who thinks, “Hey, look at her! Look at what underwear she is wearing,” or, indeed, uses it for some perverted reason, do you think that that meets the concern that is being raised from your point of view?
Again, I do not want to sit here and give legal advice, because I am not a lawyer, but there is an argument that although it does not say, “personal gain from publishing those images and other people gaining sexual gratification from them,” there is a way that the Bill covers that situation, because it covers all people in England and Wales. There is an argument that that could be covered as well in this Bill.
I want to thank you specifically, because I had not heard of upskirting until you started this campaign. I think a lot of people in the country are much more aware of it now. Until I started reading this, I had not heard of down-blousing either. What is your view on down-blousing and including it in the Bill? Is it a similar offence and intrusion to upskirting? Is it as popular? Is it happening at festivals, as we speakQ ?
I have heard about it. My personal experience is that all of the hundreds and hundreds of stories that have come to me over the past year have been about upskirting. I have not received that many stories about down-blousing. I do not know why that is. Of course, I think it is horrible. I would like to see a million things sorted out and prosecuted against. This being an upskirting Bill, I have to focus on that issue, but thank you for raising it.
Q Gina, thank you for coming before us today. I know what you have gone through.
I understand that you want to see something move as quickly as possible. There are concerns that legislation that is made in haste is not necessarily always effective. We have had examples of that in the past. Would you consider that it is important that we are as thorough as possible in taking evidence and in looking at ways of making this piece of legislation as robust as possible, with as few loopholes as possible?
Q Would the fact that it should be done in two months override the need for thoroughness?
I want to raise a couple of things. First, you said that you have been hearing from hundreds of women. Is it your impression that this is happening all the time on a daily basis and really is extensive? As Gillian said, many people had not even heard of this until your campaign, but it seems to have suddenly brought something into the open. Is it your impression that it is really quite common nowQ ?
Yes, and a big part of that is because a lot of women do not know it has happened to them. It is incredibly secretive assault. A study done recently by a women’s magazine asked women to give their stories of it anonymously. The feedback it got was that up to 80% of women said that they felt harassed and upset, but a lot women said that people had seen it happen to them. People feel that this is something that happens to women—and men and children—extensively, but they do not know it has happened because it is very hard to see it. I was lucky that I saw the picture. That is why we have not spoken about it for so long, and it has been normalised and accepted in society for so long. This campaign has ignited a conversation, so of course people have flooded in, talking to me. I am the only one who has ever gone out and said loudly that it has happened, so I think they trust me, which is nice.
Q You talk about closing the loophole whereby upskirting is not covered properly by current law. You have also clearly been very thoughtful about when it would be appropriate for someone to be put on the sex offenders register versus when it would not. You have been clear about ensuring that that is the case for someone who is a sexual predator, but am I right that you think that some people should go on the sex offenders register but that a distinction needs to be made with teenagers fooling around? You think there should be a distinction between the most serious sexual predators who are upskirting and others who are not doing it with the same motivation.
Yes, 100%. If I did not think that, the amendment would not be valuable. Obviously, there is a distinction between someone who has 5,000 photos on their phone and a 13-year-old who does it once and does not fully understand the full repercussions of his actions. I feel like the Bill that we have put forward covers all those instances and can be used case by case, objectively by prosecutors.
Q Just on that point, where would the balance be? We are differentiating between a younger person fooling around, taking photos and sharing them and someone who has a different, more sinister intent, but would the impact on the person who is the victim not be the same? How are we going to get the balance between thinking about the intent of the person committing the crime and the impact on the victim? After all, the victim comes forward because of the impact on them.
In each situation that this happens in, regardless of where it is, the age of the person and so on, it is very hard for me to say specifically where it is on the spectrum of how they feel. I have friends who it has happened to. They half did not know it was happening, but it happened to them and they were embarrassed and they left. Their instance was not as violently violating as mine felt. It is difficult for me to know, but that is something where the Bill needs to look specifically at each person’s circumstance. Currently we cannot do that.
Q Gina, you just talked about the difference between someone who does this once and someone who systematically seeks out women to take pictures in this way. Mary was talking about how we might capture intent. What is your feeling about saying that if someone is clearly showing a pattern of hostility towards women that makes them think they have the right to do this, it should be a factor in the kind of sentence they get once they have been found guilty, because there are different sentences in the legislation?
If they are shown to be hostile towards women because they have gone out and done this several times. Perhaps they have made websites of all the pictures they have taken and they have shown a different approach—a sense of entitlement—to being able to take pictures of women in this way. Do you think that level of behaviour should be reflected in and have an impact on the sentence they get, if they have been found to have taken the pictures and breached the conditions?
Yes, I feel like this constantly repeated behaviour, the sinister intention and the power play have to be taken into account, and their behaviour would be taken into account by prosecutors.
Q Prosecutors would not be able to do that at the moment, unlike if someone had sought out people from an ethnic minority to do this to. Prosecutors could take that into account, but if the offender were to seek out women explicitly, prosecutors would not be able to take that into account, particularly as opposed to anything else right now under the law. Do you think that should change for something like this?
It is difficult for me to say without knowing the process. I would not want to sit here and give advice, because I do not know the process of prosecuting this. I have been leading the campaign as a victim, so it would be difficult for me to give that advice. If Ryan was here, I am sure he would be happy to talk to you about that and to give you a more comprehensive answer. It would be remiss of me to give you an answer on that.
Q Gina, thank you very much for all the work you have done campaigning for this. You have done a tremendous campaign. I just want to pick up on something that Liz Saville Roberts asked you. She asked whether it was important to be thorough, rather than quick. The narrow area we have identified in the Bill follows the Scottish legislation, which has been in place for some time. The motivations we have identified in the Bill take a precedent that exists and that the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes under in other sexual offences and other offences. There is thorough ground to put forward a law on this narrow area but, in other areas, if we wanted to expand the Bill, that would be unprecedented and would warrant further consideration.
Thank you, Ms Martin, for all the work and campaigning you have done. I know that you tweeted that you started this last year and you are pleased to see it coming to the Bill Committee today. I want to ask a couple of questions.Q
As you know, the upskirting offence in the Bill would allow victims to be anonymous because it is categorised as a sexual offence. There has been considerable debate and a suggestion, particularly from Professor Clare McGlynn and Women’s Aid, that the Bill’s scope needs to be extended, so that victims of all image-based sexual offences have the right to anonymity in court. For example, it does not cover revenge porn. What are your views on that?
My view is that it is incredibly important to bring forward this protection quickly and focus on the issue that we have here. I have been a victim of sexual assault and harassment throughout my life. I would like to see every situation covered. I would also like to see the things that you mentioned, but I do not believe that this is the place to do it.
This is a Bill about upskirting. It is unprecedented for a Bill to go through so quickly with so much support. We have an opportunity to put down one piece of the puzzle. I would like to see us do that with this specific issue. I would personally help afterwards to focus on the rest.
Thank you. Are there any further questions? Ms Martin, thank you very much indeed both for your candour and your willingness to stick your head above the parapet. I hope that this experience, at least, has not been too bruising for you.