Voyeurism: additional offences

Part of Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 12th July 2018.

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Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 11:30 am, 12th July 2018

It is an honour and a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for providing an opportunity to discuss this important issue, and I appreciate the impact that this activity can have on the individuals affected. I am also grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke; I know she spent much time considering the Bill, including giving up her time on Tuesday to give evidence to the Committee. I am grateful for the leadership she provides as Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, and the powerful position she has taken on tackling ongoing challenges around sexual harassment.

The three amendments that were tabled by my right hon. Friend and have been moved today by the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd would remove the element of purpose, so that upskirting is caught in all circumstances, save for when a defence is established. Those defences are outlined in amendment 1. We understand the objective of ensuring that the offences are wide enough to catch all those who should be criminalised for taking upskirting photographs, and we understand the hon. Lady’s motivation in moving the amendments. It is important to raise and consider these issues, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Before turning to the amendments, it might be helpful to explain why the Bill has been drafted as it has. The Bill seeks to rectify a gap in the law. That gap exists in relation to where the act takes place: it is possible to prosecute for upskirting in a private place or a public place, but possibly not in a place that is neither private nor public, such as a school. A school is not open to the general public, so it is not public, but it is open to many, so one could not expect privacy.

The Bill specifies two purposes for which an offence can be committed: to obtain sexual gratification or to humiliate, alarm or distress the victim. The reason these purposes are identified is not only that they are clear and appropriate, but that they use language that is familiar to criminal justice agencies. These motivations are used in current legislation. They are used, word for word, in Scotland. They are also familiar to the English system. That means that the Bill as drafted has precedent in law, and we know it will catch inappropriate wrongdoing.

I will deal with a few criticisms that have been made of the Bill’s breadth. It has been said that it will not catch all those who should be caught—for example journalists, as the hon. Lady mentioned—but if a person takes a photograph with the intention of uploading it to a website where others will look at it for sexual gratification, the uploader will be caught. It will not matter that the person who took the image is not obtaining sexual gratification themselves—for example, if they just want to get paid for the photograph. If they share it with another person with the intention that that person obtains sexual gratification, they will still be caught by the new offences.