Theresa May unveils new law to ban upskirting as she says it is a 'hideous invasion of privacy'

Steven Swinford
Christopher Chope's office was festooned with knickers after he blocked plans to make upskirting a criminal offence

Theresa May will unveil new laws to make "upskirting" a criminal offence as she condemned it as a "hideous invasion of privacy".

The Government will introduce legislation that will see offenders punished by up to two years after a previous bid was scuppered by one of its own MPs.

On Friday Sir Christopher Chope faced a furious backlash after he effectively killed off the proposed legislation and his parliamentary office was later adorned with four pairs of knickers, bound together with a pink ribbon, in protest.

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, Mrs May said: "Upskirting is a hideous invasion of privacy, it leave victims feeling degraded and distressed.

"We will adopt this as a government bill, we will introduce this to the Commons this Thursday, with a second reading before the summer recess."

She added: "Victims should be in no doubt their complaints will be taken seriously and perpetrators will be punished."

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.

Prime Minister Theresa May backs the Bill Credit:  Stefan Rousseau/PA

But this law does not cover all cases. Legislation in Scotland provides for a maximum two-year jail sentence. Initially, ministers supported legislation brought forward by Wera Hobhouse MP to create a specific "upskirting" offence.

But that Private Members Bill (PMB) failed to progress in Parliament, following objections raised by Sir Christopher. He later insisted 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 bills.

The Christchurch MP complained he was being "scapegoated" over the issue and urged the Government to find the "fastest, fairest and surest passage" for a bill banning the practice.

Gina Martin, an upskirting victim whose petition to criminalise the act won her a legion of celebrity supporters and political backing, has also welcomed the Government adoption of the Bill.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer added: "The support for this new law from the public, campaigners, and across parliament shows just how seriously this crime is being taken.

"Upskirting is a humiliating and degrading practice. We will ensure this bill becomes law as soon as possible to protect more victims and properly punish offenders."