The hon. Member for Walthamstow has campaigned hard on a number of issues, including this one. I am grateful to her for her interesting and thoughtful speech and for giving us the opportunity to discuss these issues.
Upskirting is a terrible crime and an horrific invasion of privacy for those affected, and it is right that offenders are appropriately punished. Creating a specific upskirting offence sends a clear message to potential perpetrators that such behaviour is serious and will not be tolerated. The offence carries a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment, which is a serious penalty. It is in line with the sentence for racially aggravated assault, assaulting a police constable while resisting arrest and other sexual offences, such as voyeurism and exposure. Additionally, the Bill will ensure that the most serious sexual offenders are subject to notification requirements, having been put on the sex offenders register. Those are common with sexual offences and assist the police with the management of sex offenders in the community.
Statutory aggravating factors do not usually apply to just one or two offences, as would be the effect of the amendment. Judges already take into account, on a factual basis in sentencing, the circumstances of the case. Creating an additional aggravating factor for this new offence would make it inconsistent with all other sexual offences. There is no rationale for the amendment to apply specifically to this offence alone.
Similarly, it would be wrong to suggest that patterns of offending would not be considered in sentencing. For example, if in addition to taking a photo the offender went on to share it with others, the additional harm caused would be taken into account in sentencing. If the offender took hundreds of images of women, rather than just one, the additional harm or potential harm caused would be linked directly to the seriousness of the offence and would be taken into account in sentencing. If the offender has been convicted of a similar or the same offence previously, or if a prior offence indicated intent or aggression on the basis of gender, it must be considered by the judge in determining the appropriate sentence.
In addition, the independent Sentencing Council already publishes guidelines, setting out the factors that magistrates and judges should consider in determining the seriousness of offending and the harm caused for the purposes of sentencing. An updated version of the guidelines is currently the subject of a public consultation.