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UPSKIRTING: Public urged to report offenders as prosecutions double

|News, Sexual offences

Upskirting prosecutions more than doubled over the second year of the legislation being in force, with CPS analysis finding at least a third of offenders are also committing other serious sexual crimes.

In total, 46 men and one teenage boy were prosecuted for 128 offences under the Voyeurism (Offences) Act between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2021.

According to our analysis, 15 of the men prosecuted for upskirting since last April were simultaneously charged with other sexual crimes – including child abuse, sexual assault, extreme pornography, and wider voyeurism offences.

Shops, particularly supermarkets, remain by far the most common location for upskirting to take place, accounting for 36 per cent of offences since last spring.

Streets, parks, and public transport or connected areas made up the majority of the remaining locations where crimes occurred.  
There were 16 offences where victims were identified as teenage girls, including pupils in school uniforms.

The evidence also shows some men are taking extensive measures to capture images and videos of women without their consent, hiding cameras in shoes or shopping baskets and using photography apps.

In one case, two men who arranged a visit to a shopping centre to upskirt women together and swapped covert images over WhatsApp were also found to have been sharing indecent images of children.

Siobhan Blake, CPS national lead for sexual offence prosecutions, said: “Despite strict social distancing guidelines over past 18 months, it seems offenders have not been deterred from violating women’s privacy in a most degrading manner as they go about their daily lives.

“These are disturbing patterns of behaviour, with our analysis showing many men are also committing other serious sexual offences, including child abuse.

“Therefore, I encourage anyone who is a victim or witness of upskirting to immediately report it to the police.

“Not only will the CPS treat your complaint seriously, you may also be helping to protect the public from dangerous sexual predators.”

Gina Martin, campaigner, speaker and writer, said: ‘’From the moment I started collecting stories from victims and survivors I could tell upskirting wasn't something that happens in a vacuum.

"It seemed to me that it was part of a wider continuum of violence and that often it can be a gateway behaviour to more violent forms of assault, or a habitual assault that runs parallel.

"Our need to neatly think of these acts as separate is part of our problem – they are not. I hope the prosecutions from the Voyeurism Act show us that no sexual offence is 'minor' or 'every day'.

"The Voyeurism Act has shown us that every report is critical because you are holding an offender to account, but in many cases a repeat and violent offender, too."

In the two years after the legislation came into force on 12 April 2019, a total of 63 defendants were charged with 175 offences of operating equipment under clothing without consent and recording an image under clothing without consent.

This covers only finalised cases, with the vast majority resulting in conviction after guilty pleas.

Case study 1

School bus driver Robert Woolner, 55, was jailed for 30 months last year after being caught in an undercover police child grooming operation. Officers subsequently found upskirt videos on his phone of schoolgirls leaving the bus he was employed to drive in Hertfordshire.

Case study 2

Sean Correlli Toscanni, 52, was reported to police after a staff member at a Samsung store spotted disturbing images on a phone he had taken in with a query and recognised him as a security guard at a nearby H&M branch. A police examination of the device in July 2019 found he had been upskirting customers in the Newcastle store’s changing rooms and uncovered evidence of child sexual abuse. He was jailed for 38 months.

Gina Martin and Siobhan Blake, below, will be discussing upskirting and why it is important to report it on a special episode of The Guilty Feminist released on Friday 3 December at 12pm.

Gina Martin and Siobhan Blake
Gina Martin and Siobhan Blake

 

Notes to editors

  • Sean Correlli Toscanni (DOB: 15/7/1968), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, admitted one count of sexual assault of a child under 13, three counts of making indecent images of a child and four counts of recording an image under clothing without consent at Newcastle Crown Court on 15 September 2020  
  • Robert Woolner (DOB: 7/3/1965), of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, admitted one count of attempting to arrange/facilitate the commission of a child sex offence, one count of possession of extreme pornography and three counts of recording an image under clothing without consent. He was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court on 17 July 2020  
  • The data referred to in this analysis covers completed prosecutions - i.e., where a case has ended in a conviction or been withdrawn – up to June 2021. It does not include cases with a trial or sentencing outstanding and many more live prosecutions are likely to be in the system  
  • Official criminal justice outcome statistics are kept by the Ministry of Justice.

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