New offences an important step towards protecting women and girls: Bunting

DUP Justice Spokesperson Joanne Bunting MLA has described the introduction of upskirting, downblousing and cyber-flashing offences in Northern Ireland as an important step toward protecting women and girls from abusive and predatory behaviour.

By Joanne Bunting MLA

Belfast East

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Perpetrators of the offences could face up to two years in prison and up to 10 years on the Sex Offenders Register.

The East Belfast MLA was commenting during the international campaign of 16 days of action against gender based violence.

She said,

‘‘I am delighted that these offences are operational and that the PSNI now have the necessary powers to charge those who carry out such repugnant acts.

It is vital that our criminal justice system has the tools to tackle the increasing number of sexual offenders who use technology to enact harm on their victims. Upskirting and downblousing may only last a few seconds but for those targeted by these crimes their lives may never be the same again. It has been harrowing to listen to some women testify of their almost daily struggle to regain a sense of dignity after someone has callously invaded their privacy in this way. Many were targeted by those they trusted.

With the rise of social media, and the proliferation of images and videos shared online, the threat of a two-year custodial sentence for these offences sends a strong message to those tempted to engage in such activities. There should be absolutely no place in our society for anyone who uses such tactics to coerce, humiliate or objectify women.

Northern Ireland is now ahead of the curve as the only region of the United Kingdom to make downblousing a standalone criminal offence. It is important that we stay there. These changes are testament to what can be achieved if there is a collective will among the parties and our criminal justice system to make Northern Ireland a safer place.’’

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