The Government of Gibraltar yesterday published draft legislation to make “upskirting” a specific criminal offence in Gibraltar.
The term “upskirting” is used to describe the act of taking a photograph under a person’s clothing, typically up someone’s skirt, without that person’s knowledge or permission.
It is a form of sexual harassment that is “incredibly violating” but which currently is not specifically prohibited in Gibraltar, the government said.
The practice is already specifically illegal in Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and some US states.
Creating a specific “upskirting” offence will strengthen the law in this area and will also ensure that this behaviour is listed as a sexual offence for the purposes of placing offenders on the sex offenders register.
The Bill will ensure that all instances where such a photograph is taken for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or causing humiliation, distress or alarm are covered.
The offence will be triable either at the Magistrates’ Court or the Supreme Court. In the lower court it will carry a sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine, while on indictment it would carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.
“The Government of Gibraltar has noted steps to make a specific offence to cover the despicable behaviour known as ‘upskirting’,” said Neil Costa, the Minister for Health, Care and Justice.
“This will ensure that individuals who violate other persons in this way may be prosecuted and, in the most serious offences, subject to terms of imprisonment in line with other voyeuristic offences.”
The development in Gibraltar comes after a Conservative MP blocked a Bill in the House of Commons to make “upskirting” a criminal offence.
Sir Christopher Chope, 71, a veteran politician who was knighted this year, blocked the bill proposed by opposition Liberal Democrat parliamentarian Wera Hobhouse that was widely supported in the Commons.
He stopped the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill from completing its second reading in the Commons on Friday by calling out “Object!”
The move caused outrage and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom told the regular weekly meeting of Cabinet that the upskirting legislation will now be adopted as a UK Government Bill to improve its chances of becoming law.
Mrs Leadsom said it was intended to secure a second reading in the Commons for the Bill in Government time as soon as possible and certainly before the summer recess, which begins on July 28.
Theresa May told Cabinet that upskirting was “an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed”, her spokesman told reporters.
The spokesman said there was no mention at the 90-minute meeting of Sir Christopher’s intervention or of calls for reform of the procedures for private members’ bills.
Christchurch MP Sir Christopher, who has faced a storm of criticism, insisted that he supported the Bill’s purpose of outlawing the practice of taking photographs up someone’s clothing without consent, but was acting on a long-held principle that has seen him routinely oppose backbench private members’ bills.
Sir Christopher complained on Sunday that he was being “scapegoated” over the issue.
The 71-year-old told the Bournemouth Daily Echo: “The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth.”
“It’s defamatory of my character and it’s very depressing some of my colleagues have been perpetuating that in the past 48 hours.”
He urged the Government to find the “fastest, fairest and surest passage” for a Bill banning the practice.
Without a specific law, victims in England and Wales must seek prosecution of upskirting through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment.