Up-skirting and down-blousing set to become criminal offences in Northern Ireland 4 days ago

Up-skirting and down-blousing set to become criminal offences in Northern Ireland

Another step in the right direction.

Up-skirting and down-blousing are due to become criminal offences in Northern Ireland in a bid to strengthen sex crime laws.

Under new legislation, the act of taking pictures or videos of under someone's clothes without their consent will be made illegal, as will the practice of adults masquerading as children online.

The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill will also strengthen current revenge porn laws in the region.

The Bill reached its second stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, after a number of campaigns to make up-skirting and down-blousing illegal.

The practice became a criminal offence in England and Wales in April 2019, while it was already an offence in Scotland.

Provisions within the bill include the exclusion of the public from all serious sexual offence hearings, as well as the introduction of anonymity for defendants before they are charged.

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Justice Minister Naomi Long also outlined a number of amendments to be included in the Bill, such as strengthening Northern Ireland's current revenge porn laws to include threats to release intimate photographs or videos in order to cause upset, addressing the use of “the rough sex defence” by disallowing consent to be lawfully given for serious harm with the purpose of sexual gratification, and extending existing legislation surrounding the abuse of position of trust of a child to include sports and faith settings.

Ms Long said the legislation will make communities safer and have a “real, tangible and positive effect” in protecting the most vulnerable as it “has the protection of victims at its heart.”

“I am determined to do everything I can to ensure victims are heard and that they feel confident in the criminal justice system,” she said.

“This Bill incorporates recommendations from the Gillen Review of serious sexual offences and it also implements elements following a review of the law on child sexual exploitation and sexual offences against children.

“Services for victims of trafficking and exploitation will also be enhanced as a result of this legislation.”