Making an upskirting compensation claim on a no win, no fee basis
With upskirting becoming a criminal offence, we take a look at how this change in the law impacts on women making an upskirting compensation claim where the crime is commmitted.
In July 2017, Gina Martin was at a music festival in London waiting to watch The Killers perform when a man put his mobile phone between her legs and took pictures. Understandably, Gina was disgusted by this act and knew it was wrong. She took the correct course of action and reported this awful and violating incident to the Police. But limited by the power afforded to them by the law, the Police were unable to take any action as upskirting was not an offence. It therefore appeared that the man would face no sanctions for his behaviour.
Turning to social media to share her experience, Gina’s post went viral. She was clearly not alone, and many other women shared their own similar experiences. Some had tried to report incidents of upskirting to the Police as Gina did, others were too embarrassed to make a formal report or were worried they would not be taken seriously. It became clear this was a serious issue affecting many women in our society. A petition was started and received overwhelming support.
Pressure was put on the government to make upskirting a specific criminal offence and the campaign received the support of Wera Hobhouse, a Lib Dem MP. A private members’ bill was tabled, backing the creation of the offence. However, people were shocked when, in July 2018, the bill was blocked in the House of Commons by the Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope. He was heavily criticised for his actions. Fortunately it was only a temporary set-back, but we must ask ourselves how many upskirting offences may have taken place without consequence for the perpetrator caused by this delay?
On 12 April 2019 upskirting officially became a criminal offence. The Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 makes it an offence for a person to take pictures beneath a person’s clothing to observe their genitals or buttocks without consent. It will be an offence whetheror not the victim is wearing underwear. The offender must have a motive of either gaining sexual gratification or causing humiliation, distress or alarm to the victim. This means there must be an element of intent on the part of the offender.
This is a huge step in the right direction and it will now remain to be seen how this law will be enforced by the Police. It is hoped those who experience upskirting will have the confidence to report the offence to the Police and that their allegations will be taken seriously. It is also hoped that those individuals who engage in upskirting for their own sexual gratification or to humiliate another will find the prospect of facing the full force of the criminal law a deterrent.
Rachel Thain, specialist lawyer in our abuse department, welcomed The Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 coming into force:
“I commend the commitment and bravery of Gina Martin in bringing about this significant change in the law. It highlights the power of individuals to make a change and the support she received showed that the vast majority of people in our society agree that such behaviour is simply unacceptable and cannot go unpunished. Those few individuals who engage in upskirting will hopefully now think twice before engaging in such violating conduct, as they could be facing up to 2 years in prison.
I have direct experience of working with victims of upskirting and therefore know the significant effect it can have. Not only is the practice violating, inappropriate and at times frightening, there are also issues with regards to what will be done with the pictures after the offence has taken place. It is understandable to be anxious about whether the photographs may be shared online or in some other format, or the thought of the offender using the pictures for their own sexual gratification.
While we can encourage those who have experienced upskirting to feel confident to make a report to the Police, it will remain to be seen how the Police are able to apply the new law and prosecute offenders.”
The ciminalisation of the act will also have an impact of the civil law and in particular a woman’s right to make an upskirting compensation claim. We have recently recovered a five figure sum for a woman who was the victim of an upskirting incident. The claim was concluded prior to the change in the law, but we believe the new Act will help women making an upskirting compensation claim in the future.
In order to recover compensation it is generally necessry to establish that you have suffered either physical injury or a psychiatric illness as a result.