The Conservative MP who single-handedly blocked the criminalisation of upskirting has claimed he is being used as a scapegoat while defending his much-criticised move, insisting: “I am not a dinosaur.”
On Friday, Sir Christopher Chope shouted “object!” to the measure when it was included in a backbench MP’s private members’ bill.
The Tory was greeted with cries of “shame” from other MPs after that alone prevented the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill getting its second reading in the Commons.
This weekend, the 71-year-old MP for Christchurch in Dorset told his local newspaper he supports outlawing the “vulgar, humiliating and unacceptable” act of upskirting, and added: “The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth.”
In an interview published in the Daily Echo on Sunday, the Tory grandee said he was acting on a long-held principle that has seen him routinely oppose backbench private members bills.
“I feel a bit sore about being scapegoated over this,” he said.
“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 people from taking pictures up someone’s clothing without consent, and accused ministers of “hijacking” backbenchers’ time with the Friday afternoon debate.
The MP added: “I am not a dinosaur. I am very much alive and kicking. There are too few colleagues who are prepared to stand up for the rights of Parliament against the executive and that’s when the freedoms we cherish will be eroded.”
Theresa May called the act “invasive” and “degrading” when she pledged to revive an attempt to ban it.
Gina Martin, an upskirting victim whose petition to criminalise the act won her a legion of celebrity supporters and political backing, said the move left her extremely upset.
Culture Minister Margot James said Sir Christopher had brought the Tories into disrepute, while the Prime Minister expressed her “disappointment” at his move.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “dismayed and appalled” and Labour MP Richard Burgon said he was “disgusted”.
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.
A specific law already exists in Scotland and the blocked bill would have seen upskirting offenders face a maximum of two years in prison.
May reassured on Sunday that the Government would provide time for anti-upskirting legislation to pass through Parliament.
“It is an invasive, offensive act and we need to take action against it,” she added.