85 per cent of police reports on upskirting fail to make it to court

Barely one in seven police reports of so called upskirting in Scotland lead to court action, official figures have revealed.

Covertly taking revealing pictures of victims was made an offence in Scotland in 2010
Covertly taking revealing pictures of victims was made an offence in Scotland in 2010

It has raised fresh concerns over a “legal or procedural obstacle” to prosecutors in Scotland proceeding with such cases after specific laws were introduced to crack down on the problem in 2011.

The Scotsman revealed last week that concerns over loopholes in the law north of the Border had prompted concerns over the legislation aimed at cracking down on compromising pictures being taken of women, often on mobile phones.

At the time it was revealed that in the first six years of the law being in operation, just 21 prosecutions had taken place - an average of about three a year. It has now emerged that there were a total of 142 charges reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal’s Office in Scotland over the same period, meaning just 15 per cent of reports make court.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur has now stepped up calls for answers from the prosecution service in Scotland.

Mr McArthur said: “There have been more than 140 charges reported to COPFS but only 21 people prosecuted. While this may be a result of individuals facing multiple charges, it also leaves open the possibility that some procedural or legal obstacle is preventing these cases from being taken forward. Experts have warned of loopholes in the law.

“I hope the Crown Office will be able to throw some light on this to help encourage victims of upskirting to come forward in the future.

“I have also written to the Lord Advocate and I would welcome his view on whether or not the law in this area, and guidance to prosecutors, remains fit for purpose.”

Upskirting was banned as a specific offence in Scotland in 2010.

The offences reported by police were mainly voyeurism offences under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009

A Crown Office spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Crown Office have received correspondence from Liam McArthur MSP and a response will be issued in due course.”

One teaching union has warned the laws introduced in Scotland at start of the decade are not working and want mobile phones banned in schools because of the growing problem of pupils using them to take inappropriate photographs.

An upskirting bill is currently being passed south of the Border. But campaigners involved with legislation have raised concerns over “limitations” in the law north of the Border, which they are seeking to address in the Westminster bill.

They claim images that are shared on social media for “group bonding” purposes or sold for financial gain, to a magazine or newspaper, can escape prosecution.

Clare McGlynn, a professor of law at Durham University has been working with MPs on the proposed changes and said the Scottish legislation “doesn’t cover every single instance of upskirting”.

The Scottish Government has said in addition to the specific “upskirting” ban north of the Border, a new offence was established last year of sharing “intimate images” without consent under the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act which was backed by a high profile media campaign to raise awareness.