Upskirting and Criminality: changes to UK law

Upskirting and Criminality: changes to UK law

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of campaigner Gina Martin and Lawyer Ryan Whelan, the practice of upskirting was brought into criminal law in 2018. A highly intrusive practice- upskirting refers to the act of taking covert photographs underneath the clothes of victims without their consent. Previously, existing UK law did not cover every aspect of this crime (unlike Scotland which criminalised upskirting in 2009) and was instead listed underneath the umbrella of the voyeurism. Victims, as a result, have seldom been able to prosecute this kind of intrusive behaviour. This change, would extend existing voyeurism laws, creating upskirting as its own unique offence, and strengthen the law in this area.

Under new law, “it would also allow this intrusive behaviour to be treated as a sexual offence, ensure that the most serious offenders are made subject to notification requirements (commonly referred to as the ‘sex offenders register’)” ( and; would capture instances where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress or alarm. The new punishment for upskirting is two years imprisonment and a place on the ‘sex offenders register.’ This change does not merely impact upon the stringency of punishment; the new bill will be much more victim centric and reflect the feelings of the vulnerable. Previous to the change, upskirting was typically prosecuted under the lens of public indecency, that is to say, the impact of upskirting on the general public rather than the victim who has been harassed. New laws however, reflect the disturbing and upsetting aspect of upskirting, and provide victims with an appropriate channel to pursue their claim.

In this article, we speak with Ryan Whelan, the lawyer behind the campaign, to discuss the promising future of this bill and what the change means for: practitioners, victims and society at large.

What are the key changes to criminal law?

As underlined in the Provisions of the Bill, published by parliament in a research briefing, the amendment would result in several key changes. To read the bill in full, please click here.

“The bill, as introduced in the House of Lords, seeks to amend section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, by inserting two new offences covering the practice of upskirting.

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About the author:
Catherine is one of the Future of Law's digital editors. She graduated from Durham University with a degree in English Literature and worked at a barristers chambers before joining Lexis Nexis.