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House of Commons Hansard
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24 April 2018
Volume 639
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12. What his policy is on creating a specific sexual offence of upskirting. [904905]

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22. What his policy is on creating a specific sexual offence of upskirting. [904918]

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I share the outrage at the distress that this intrusive behaviour can cause to victims, and I am determined to ensure that they can be confident that their complaints will be taken seriously. I am sympathetic to calls for a change in the law, and my officials are reviewing the current law to make sure that it is fit for purpose. As part of that work, we are considering the private Member’s Bill that is being promoted by the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse).

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It is appropriate on this day to refer yet again to the statue of Millicent Fawcett, and I shall channel my inner Millicent Fawcett by asking the Secretary of State this question. Nearly 100,000 members of the public have signed a petition calling for upskirting to be made a specific sexual offence, and MPs from all the major parties have signed an early-day motion that makes the same call, so why is the Secretary of State still refusing to act? We really need to ensure that our law reflects that of Scotland, where provisions on upskirting have been incorporated in the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

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Let me also acknowledge the unveiling of the Millicent Fawcett statue.

As I have said, I am sympathetic to the idea of our taking action in this regard. There are instances in which people have been successfully prosecuted for upskirting in the context of outraging public decency, and voyeurism can also apply under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. However, those offences do not necessarily cover every instance of upskirting, which is why there is a strong case for looking at the law and considering whether we need to change it.

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I, too, am using my inner Millicent Fawcett courage to raise this issue. In Scotland, the offences of upskirting and downblousing are covered by the 2009 Act. Surely the Secretary of State accepts that the same could be done in this country.

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We are looking very closely at the Scottish legislation and experience. It is true that a very small number of prosecutions have been brought under that legislation. I want to reassure people that successful prosecutions have been brought in England under the existing law, but I think that there is a case for making sure that we have legislation that deals with this offence specifically.

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I think that we all receive correspondence about this regularly. As other Members have done, may I encourage the Secretary of State to look at what has been done in Scotland, where we have shown leadership? The House is clear about the need for action—the will is there, so we must act.

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We are looking very closely at how the Scottish legislation has operated to establish whether, if there is a gap, that represents a way in which we can address the matter.