On 12 April, the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 came into force, which added two new offences to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to cover the practice of 'upskirting'. The offences include taking a photograph or video recording beneath the skirt or dress of a person (or enabling another person to do the same), without their consent for the purpose of “obtaining sexual gratification; or humiliating, alarming or distressing them”. The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.
This is a topical issue for educational institutions given recent media reports of a growing number of cases of students taking photographs up female teachers’ skirts. It is also a growing issue between pupils and would fall within the definition of peer-on-peer abuse in the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance.
Given the gravitas associated with the new offence, it is recommended that schools and colleges review current practices and ensure that students are aware of the new crime and the potential consequences of any involvement in upskirting. Action may include reference to this in assemblies, newsletters, personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and any materials circulated around the institution.
Policies relating to safeguarding and behaviour may need updating and students made aware that it is not just the person who takes the picture(s)/ makes the recording who will be sanctioned; anyone who has helped that person take the picture(s)/make the recording will be deemed equally culpable. Finally, it may be worth reviewing the school’s or college’s policy concerning mobile phones and whether the rules on their use/presence need updating.