What is Upskirting & Is It A Criminal Offence?

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Glen Henry

Solicitor Advocate

Although Section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 addressed the general offence of voyeurism, it wasn’t until 2019 that specific provisions were established to address ‘upskirting’. This was achieved through the introduction of the Voyeurism (Offences) Act. Below, we take a look at what upskirting is, what the potential sentences are if you are accused, as well as the steps you should take if you have been accused. 

What is upskirting? 

Upskirting refers to the act of positioning a camera or mobile phone beneath a person’s clothing, aiming to capture images of their genitals, buttocks, or undergarments without their consent. Contrary to its name, this act is not limited to individuals wearing skirts or dresses; it applies regardless of attire or gender identity.

Is upskirting a criminal offence? 

Upskirting has been recognised as a criminal offence following the introduction of the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019. Before this legislation, upskirting incidents were typically prosecuted under the common law offence of Outraging Public Decency or existing voyeurism laws outlined in Section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The Voyeurism (Offences) Act introduced two new provisions under Section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act:

  • Section 67A(1): Criminalises individuals who use equipment beneath someone’s clothing, aiming to view their genitals or buttocks, whether recorded or not, with or without underwear.
  • Section 67A(2): Criminalises individuals who record images beneath someone’s clothing without consent, intending to view or enable others to view their genitals or buttocks.

Both offences aim to derive sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress, or alarm.

What’s the difference between upskirting and voyeurism? 

Upskirting involves capturing images or videos under someone’s clothing without their consent, primarily focusing on their genitals or buttocks. On the other hand, voyeurism covers a broader range of activities, including observing or recording private acts, not limited to upskirting for sexual gratification or to humiliate, distress, or alarm the victim.

What happens if you’re found guilty of an upskirting offence? 

Sentences for upskirting offences are triable either way. If you are convicted, a summary conviction may result in a maximum sentence of up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine. 

Alternatively, if the case is heard in the Crown Court, a guilty verdict could lead to a maximum prison term of two years. 

It should also be mentioned that upskirting, being a sexual offence, may also come with notification requirements. Offenders, especially those committing the act for sexual gratification, may also be placed on the sex offenders register.

What to do if you’ve been accused of an upskirting offence? 

If you’ve been accused of an upskirting offence, you should seek expert legal advice immediately. In fact, contacting a solicitor like Lawtons, known for their experience in sexual offences, can be highly beneficial to you. Our team can provide advice tailored to your situation and help navigate the complex legal process. However, in the meantime, it’s important to refrain from discussing the case with anyone except your solicitor and to cooperate fully with legal authorities. 

Remember, stay calm, be proactive, and seek professional legal support to ensure your rights and reputation are protected.

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