What is upskirting? Figures show more than 1,000 crimes committed since 2019

Upskirting is still an issue despite its illegality in England and Wales  (PA)
Upskirting is still an issue despite its illegality in England and Wales (PA)

More than 1,000 upskirting crimes have been recorded in the past five years with some victims being as young as three, figures have revealed.

Upskirting has been a criminal offence in England and Wales since 2019, but this has not stopped the harmful practice, according to reports.

A report on Thursday showed 40 per cent of victims in the past five years have been children.

“I felt really embarrassed that someone had done that, because I’d dressed up to go out with my friends,” a victim told Sky News, which reported the figures.

The female victim added: “I know you're not supposed to blame yourself but you do think: ‘Maybe I wore a dress which was too short’.”

Sky was able to obtain the figures after submitting freedom of information requests to 43 police forces in England and Wales.

This found that 1,150 upskirting crimes have been recorded since 2019 and that 40 per cent of the victims were children, with the youngest being three.

A spokesman for the Government said: “We are supporting women and girls to feel safer everywhere and that’s why we are encouraged that 60 per cent of offenders convicted of voyeurism in the past year received either a suspended sentence or immediate custody.”

The figures follow Meta has removing “large numbers” of upskirting images on Facebook, following a BBC investigation.

Initially, some reported content was not removed, because Facebook said did not appear to breach its community standards. But Meta has since taken action against groups and individuals linked to the content.

In a statement, a Meta spokesman said the company knows “our work is never finished” on the issue.

“Sharing intimate images without consent, including upskirting, is not allowed on Facebook. Following the BBC’s investigation, we’ve removed a large number of groups and accounts, and have taken further action to block multiple associated hashtags.

“We know our work is never finished and we’ll continue to remove any violating content when we become aware of it.”

But what is upskirting and when did it become illegal?

What is upskirting?

Upskirting is when someone takes a photo underneath someone’s skirt or dress without their consent, with the intention to obtain sexual gratification, or to humiliate or distress the victim.

Offenders take photos underneath the victim’s clothes with the intention of viewing their body, especially their genitals or buttocks. It counts as upskirting whether the victim is wearing underwear or not.

What is the law on upskirting?

Upskirting is a criminal offence in England and Wales. Perpetrators will face two years in prison, and offenders who took photos to obtain sexual gratification can be placed on the sex offenders’ register.

Was upskirting always illegal?

Upskirting was previously prosecuted under the common law offence of “outraging public decency”. But the previous law didn’t cover all instances.

Upskirting has been a specific criminal offence in England and Wales since April 12, 2019, when the law came into force. It was already a criminal offence in Scotland.

In January 2020, it was reported that there had been an upskirting allegation made to police nearly every single day since the law came into force.

How did upskirting become illegal?

Upskirting became illegal following a campaign by activist Gina Martin.

In 2017, Martin was at the British Summer Time music festival in London’s Hyde Park when a man put his phone between her legs and took photos.

She reported the incident to the police, but was told that it was not a specific offence and that the case was closed.

Martin shared what happened to her on social media and it went viral, with other victims sharing their experiences. A petition calling to reopen her case received more than 50,000 signatures.

The campaign was picked up by Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse, who brought a bill that would make upskirting a specific offence.

Despite being objected to by one Tory backbench MP, the bill was eventually passed and became law.

What can victims of upskirting do?

Victims of upskirting can contact the police, who must give them written confirmation of the crime report, a crime reference number, and contact details for the police officer dealing with the case.

The police should tell victims what will happen next and when they can expect an update. They should find out what support the victim needs and ask a victim support organisation to contact them within two days.

Victims of upskirting are also entitled to automatic protection, so they cannot be identified in the media.