New breastfeeding voyeurism offence introduced
Perpetrators face up to two years' imprisonment
The government has announced the creation of a breastfeeding voyeurism offence under new measures “targeted directly at keeping women and girls safer” to be introduced through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The proposed changes to the law will make taking photographs or video recordings of a person who is breastfeeding, or operating equipment with the intention of enabling another person to observe a person who is breastfeeding, a specific offence, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.
The offence will be committed in situations where the photograph or recording is taken without consent, with the motive of obtaining sexual gratification (either by the person taking the image, or a third party) or to humiliate, alarm or distress the person depicted.
The new offence will build on existing voyeurism offences in sections 67 and 67A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, as amended by the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019, which banned ‘upskirting’. This offence typically involves offenders taking a picture under a person’s clothing without their knowledge. Recent data showed there have been 32 prosecutions for this offence since its introduction.
The Law Commission is currently undertaking a wider review of the law on taking, making and sharing intimate images without consent, including photography of breastfeeding. The government will consider any recommendations published by the Law Commission (currently expected in spring 2022) and further changes to the law may be made.
Domestic abuse commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, said: “In making photographing breastfeeding mothers without consent a specific offence, the Government is giving police and prosecutors the clarity and powers they need to ensure perpetrators face justice”.
Deputy prime minister, lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, Dominic Raab, commented that “no new mum should be harassed in this way”.
Home secretary, Priti Patel, said: “Our actions include the new Domestic Abuse Act, with important changes to our laws; a newly created national police lead responsible solely on violence against women and girls, and millions of pounds have been invested in direct safety measures through the Safer Streets Fund. These are all important public confidence measures and changes to ensure the safety of women and girls in public spaces”.