Calling Ministry of Justice to Broaden reform of any ‘upskirting’ law

McGlynn Northern Echo Feb 2018Upskirting – taking photos or videos up a woman’s skirt without her permission – is a form of image-based sexual abuse and should be criminalised.

In May 2018, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice , together with Erika Rackley, to urge the Government to reform the law to protect victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse, including ‘upskirting’. Our reform suggestions are also made in this short blog.

English law does not fully cover this activity and the law should be reformed by making it a sexual offence with the focus on victim’s experiences and not the motives of perpetrators.

Recent public debate, following FOI disclosures that there are few prosecutions, found that there is widespread support for a change in the law. In response to this new data, I said it showed there “are few public places where women are free from this abuse“, adding that “The Government’s continuing failure to provide an effective criminal law against upskirting breaches women’s human rights. We are entitled to protection from degrading and abusive treatment, whether offline or online – and we are entitled to have our privacy in public respected.”

SofS Gauke Upskirting Reform Letter 10 Jan 2018-page-001In January 2018, together with Erika Rackley, I wrote to the Ministry of Justice  in January 2018 setting out our recommendations for reform. The Government MofJ Lucy Frazer Ltr Feb 2018 responded that they consider current laws to be sufficient and are keeping the issue under review.

This whole issue is back in the spotlight, thanks to the campaigning work of Gina Martin who has spoken out about her experience of upskirting. Wera Hobhouse MP is seeking to change the law and I’ve written a blog welcoming this proposal and hoping that the law can be changed to benefit victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse.

Gina has shared her experience on BBC Woman’s Hour, where I discussed the law, and you can listen to episode here:

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I have argued, together with Erika Rackley, that upskirting should be viewed is a form of image-based sexual abuse – together with other forms of this abuse such as ‘revenge porn’, sexual extortion, sexualised photoshopping and the like. The civil and criminal law need to be reformed to respond to these growing forms of abuse and we have made detailed recommendations in our briefing document and academic work.

On the specific need for a new law covering #upskirting and #downblousing, you can also read my short blog with colleague Julia Downes written a couple of years ago.

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New FOI data on Policing Extreme Porn

How is the law on extreme pornography being policed? Who is being charged with extreme pornography offences? What is the most common type of pornography being prosecuted?

To find out the answers to these and many similar questions, my colleague Dr Hannah Bows and I made new Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all police forces across England and Wales.

We produced a preliminary analysis of the data for the inquiry into pornography being held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual Violence. We will publish the full results later in the year.

Our evidence submission is available here: APPG BowsMcGlynn FOI Evidence_

These are some of our preliminary findings:

What do we know of those who are accused of possessing extreme pornography?

  • Gender of defendants: The vast majority (98%) of those charged with extreme pornography offences are men.
  • Age of defendants: Men across all ages are being charged with extreme pornography offences. This is not an offence being committed only by young people sharing ‘gross’ images, engaging in ‘sexual experimentation’ or having greater internet use.
  • Ethnicity: Those accused are predominantly White (71%).

What types of extreme pornography are recorded and charged?

  • Bestiality Images: Vast majority of charges were for possession of bestiality images (85%).
  • Rape Pornography: Only 3 charges (1%) were made in relation to possession of rape pornography
  • Attrition: Of all recorded incidents of extreme pornography (n=500) 62% led to a charge.
  • Additional offences charged: where information was available (n=116), in just over half of cases (59%) an additional offence was recorded at the same time as the extreme pornography offence, with the majority of those additional charges (62%) being for sexual offences.