Upskirting is an abhorrent practice, and I am pleased that the UK Government has brought forward this Bill to make this unacceptable act an offence in England and Wales. My Scottish Conservative colleagues in Holyrood were proud to vote for legislation making upskirting an offence in Scotland, and I will be proud to support this Bill, which will make upskirting an offence south of the border.
While there are existing offences in English and Welsh law that can be used to punish upskirting in some cases, there may be some circumstances where these existing provisions are inadequate. Therefore, the UK Government’s Bill will close the gap in the law in England and Wales by making upskirting an offence in its own right. This is why I believe it is so important that this Bill is passed.
With respect to proposals to treat misogyny as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes under this law, it is worth noting that the maximum sentence for the offence in the Bill – two years – is in line with the sentence for other sexual offences, as well as for some aggravated offences, such as racially aggravated assault.
This Bill will only apply to England and Wales, as justice is a devolved matter, and upskirting is already an offence in Scotland. Any change to the law to make misogyny a hate crime in Scotland would therefore be the responsibility of the Scottish Government.
I understand that an independent review of hate crime laws in Scotland recently recommended additional measures to tackle hate crimes related to gender and age, as well as the exploitation of vulnerable people. I know my Scottish Conservative colleagues in Holyrood will continue to stand up for victims and for tough sentencing as the Scottish Government responds to that review.