Voyeurism: additional offences

Part of Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 12th July 2018.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham 11:45 am, 12th July 2018

I congratulate the hon. Lady once again on the vigour with which she has pursued this important cause.

With enormous respect, I do not think that anyone has dealt with the issue of the sexual offenders register. If we accept that not everyone should automatically go on it, the key problem with the amendment is that it does not answer the question of how a court is supposed to decide.

At the moment, the prosecution will say, “You, Mr Bloggs, are charged on an indictment with upskirting pursuant to section 67A(3)(a)—that is to say, sexual gratification.” The jury will consider the evidence that a photo was sent to a pornographic site, or about where it was stored on the defendant’s computer, or about what was found at his home, or whatever it is. They will convict the defendant, and the judge will say, “We will put you on the sexual offenders register and give you a sentence of 18 months in prison,” or whatever it is—simple.

If the amendment were made, what on earth would the judge be supposed to do? All the jury need to find is that the defendant intentionally used his phone to upskirt, so they would reject his ludicrous defence that somehow the phone operated automatically, but the poor old judge would raise his hands and say, “What am I going to do now? I have to make a decision that will be incredibly significant for protecting the public, potentially, and in changing this man’s life,” as he might be an idiotic criminal with no previous convictions and lots of personal mitigation. The judge would say, “All right, I will put him on the sexual offenders register.” But should a jury not decide that? The only way they can sensibly decide that question is if the Bill allows them to. I am concerned that judges will ask, “What on earth has Parliament done here? It has not assisted us, as judges, to do justice in the cases before us.” For those reasons, I oppose the amendment.