Today marked a milestone in the magnificent campaign by Gina Martin to persuade Parliament to legislate against “upskirting”, the intrusive practice of taking photographs of a person under clothing (usually their skirt) without permission. A Private Member’s Bill to create a specific criminal offence of upskirting was introduced by Wera Hobhouse MP, before being blocked by Sir Christopher Chope, and aimed to eliminate an existing loophole in the law which means that some instances of this behaviour cannot be prosecuted. This, it seems, was not welcomed by the man who brands himself ‘Mr Loophole’, solicitor Nick Freeman. Mr Freeman, channelling his best Aunt Lydia, tweeted:
Whilst this is totally unacceptable conduct, if women
assumed some responsibility for their attire, they would not be in jeopardy. Prosecutions will only utilise valuable police and CPS
resources that should be prioritised elsewhere. #upskirting https://t.co/dkUGnIVCpV
— Nick Freeman (@TheMrLoophole) June 15, 2018
The response was critical, to put it mildly. And I confess to being one to initially reproach Mr Freeman for his comment. However upon reflection, it might be that he has hit on something. After all, there are ways in which women – indeed all victims of criminal offences – might better help themselves, which are well-known to us legal beagles, but perhaps not to the general public. So in the spirit of public service, herewith some tips on how, by taking responsibility, we might all keep ourselves a bit safer:
- If you are a shopkeeper, take responsibility for the plague of shoplifting (section 1 of the Theft Act 1968) by locking all your produce in the stock room and keeping your shelves conscientiously empty.
- Save yourself from an impending physical assault by punching yourself on the nose. If the court can’t tell whether your broken schnoz was caused by you or by your assailant, they cannot formally declare you a victim of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861).
- The legal definition of burglary includes entering a “building” as a trespasser (section 9(1) of the Theft Act 1968). A tent is not a building, so avoid the scourge of burglary by razing your provocative dwelling house to the ground and setting up camp in the front garden.
- Landlords, if you have any self-respect you will protect yourselves from drunk and disorderly troublemakers (section 91 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967) by barring all except your regular punters. And then bar them too, just to be sure.
- See that fluffy kitten? He’d be immune from all acts of cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 if only he weren’t so damn kickable.
- Nobody is blaming you for being a victim of witness intimidation (section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994), but if you will choose to witness a criminal offence and cooperate with the authorities, you have to be accountable for your decisions.
- While there is no excuse for racist abuse, victims could help themselves by trying – just trying – to be a different race.
- Yes, online banking fraud is bad, but knowing that it exists, shouldn’t you sensibly be eschewing the concept of money and transactional capitalism altogether?
- Murder is indefensible; however having your vital organs clustered together under such easily-perforated skin is a lifestyle choice of which you need to take ownership.
This post was first published in the i paper, here.
Brilliant! Thank you for this. P.S. I know we your loyal readers are all wonderful, but why do you think of us as ‘foals’? Frisky and frolicsome?
A brilliant skewering
Does “upskirting” refer to any attempt to take a picture of somebody’s underwear or only such cases where they physically thrust a camera under a woman’s skirt?
If people dress in such a manner that it exposes their underwear to public view then surely they have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
None of these are really comparable situations to the upskirting case.
Nobody has a right to steal your property no matter how carelessly you guard it, but surely the extent to which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy does depend on how revealingly you are dressed: If you go out in public wearing only a bra and knickers, you have no reasonable expectation that the sight of your underwear will remain private, thus it can hardly constitute invasion of privacy for a third party to photograph you, knickers and all, in this state.
And if your dress leaves your underwear partially or intermittently exposed, it’s also difficult to argue that you have just cause to complain if somebody takes a photo which captures a glimpse of your underwear.
Surely the question here is intent; I can wear what I like, but taking action to procure a view that is not clearly solicited should be seen as an invasive infringment of personal autonomy?
The question then becomes when does an infringement of personal autonomy become a crime. My current position on this is that #metoo is impeding a sensible discussion about the evolving rights of women which are, in historical terms, evolving at speed and rightly so.
Will Downblowsing protection be extended to celebrity women finally? We have surely seen too many naked celebrity female chests taken by paparazzi. And those photos of Diana not wearing a bra, does anyone claim they were not an invasive? Are celebs not people?
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