Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

'Upskirt' photos taken without consent are legal, US court rules

rexfeatures-3457733a.jpg
use-this.jpg

Taking 'upskirt' photos of women on public transport is legal because they are not naked, a high court in the US state of Massachusetts ruled this week.

A judge overturned the ruling of a lower court in charges against Michael Robertson, a man who took mobile phone photos up the skirts of women riding on the Boston subway.

Robertson was arrested in August 2010 after a sting operation involving transit police. It followed multiple complaints that he had been taking photos up the skirts and dresses of female passengers on public transport.

In the court decision this week, Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court found that Robertson had not violated state law because the women in question were not nude or partially nude.

The state's existing "Peeping Tom" laws protect people from being photographed in dressing rooms and bathrooms where they are naked or partially clothed but it does not protect clothed people in public areas, the court ruled.

"A female passenger on a MBTA trolley [Boston subway carriage] who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing," the court said.

"... [State law] does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA."

Lawmakers immediately pledged to update existing state legislation amid an outcry from state officials and women's rights groups.

Senate President Therese Murray said she was stunned with the ruling.

"We have fought too hard and too long for women’s rights to take the step backward," she said in a statement. "I am in disbelief that the courts would come to this kind of decision and outraged at what it means for women’s privacy and public safety in the commonwealth. I will speak with the members tomorrow in caucus, and the Senate will act swiftly."

Gina Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said such photos were a form of sexual harassment and called for an urgent change to current legislation.

"It’s a violation for the person who is unknowingly getting their body photographed," she said to the Associated Press. "People wear clothing for a reason and having someone violate that privacy is a real problem."

Women in the UK can take action against sexual harassment on public transport under public decency laws

In the UK, public decency laws may be applied to similar cases of people who take invasive photos without consent. In 2011, a 50-year-old man was given a three-year community order after being caught by British Transport Police taking photos up women's skirts on the London Underground.

The man, Robert Bayliss, was also issued with a Sexual Offences Prevention Order to prevent him from carrying any kind of photographic equipment on the whole of the railway network for five years.

Campaigns against harassment on public transport such as Hollaback and Everyday Sexism have also pushed through a change in the way police in the UK deal with such offences. In 2013, Project Guardian was launched on London's transport networks to encourage victims of sexual assault and harassment to come forward. Around 200 extra officers were deployed to stations around the capital to launch the crackdown.

"We hope this will send a message to everyone that we will not tolerate this behaviour," a statement from British Transport Police read at the time. "We want women to feel confident that they will be listened to and their complaints will all be taken seriously."

What do you think? Is enough being done to combat sexual harrassment on public transport in the UK? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @stylistmagazine

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Rex Features

Related

herolupita.jpg

The evolution of Lupita Nyong'o's style

hero-2.jpg

Four-year-old girl re-creates celebrity dresses from paper and tape

rexfeatures-3621458b.jpg

Beyoncé's Drunk In Love video in emojis

rexfeatures-1811356a.jpg

Five qualities you need to get a job at Google

rexfeatures-3497351k.jpg

Cate Blanchett gets post-Oscars tattoo with Amy Adams

rexfeatures-3622356b.jpg

Buttercream high heels that look good enough to eat

More

The best possible gifts for when flowers aren’t going to cut it

17 unusual and thoughtful gifts for when the s**t hits the fan

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This Battle of the Sexes legend wants you to STOP asking about McEnroe

“I would like to see John McEnroe win a Grand Slam tournament while pregnant”

by Susan Devaney
22 Sep 2017

“The real reason we should all be upset about Uber”

Grow up: your bank balance really isn’t what’s at stake here

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

There's a huge sherbet fountain coming to London - and it's free

Bompas & Parr are planning a weird, wonderful and nostalgia-filled event

by Helen Brown
22 Sep 2017

Rick and Morty creator responds to sexist trolling of female writers

The show hired four women. Cue cries of “Worst. Episodes. Evah.”

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

Everything you need to know about Uber being banned in London

The taxi firm has had its license revoked by TfL

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

The new Baileys flavour you’ll want to drink well beyond Halloween

Perfect autumn cocktails ahead

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

Harry Potter fans, this epic Hogwarts goblet is actually magical

It's perfect for Butterbeer (or prosecco)

by Megan Murray
22 Sep 2017

The hidden meanings behind the nation’s most popular baby names

Prepare for lots of girls’ names ending in ‘a’

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017