NEW legislation to prosecute people convicted of upskirting, downblousing and cyber-flashing has come into effect in the North from Monday.

Other legislation has also been strengthened in the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill to protect children from grooming, both online and in person.

Rules have been expanded to include those in the areas of sport or religion who will now be prosecuted if they abuse their trust. Legislation will also now prosecute any adult who pretends to be a child online in order to lure or groom children with penalties of up to two years in prison and ten years on the sex offenders register.

Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher said: “These crimes are a huge invasion of someone’s privacy and leave victims feeling degraded and distressed. The impact is long-lasting in a lot of cases. By making upskirting, downblousing, cyber-flashing and threats to disclose someone’s private images a crime, we are sending a clear messages as a society that these behaviours are not going to be tolerated and that perpetrators will be properly punished.”

The legislation was also welcomed by Sarah Mason, CEO of Women's Aid Federation who said: “Women’s Aid welcome the introduction of these new provisions.

"These offences disproportionately affect women and girls and it is important that there is public awareness and that they are dealt with appropriately with a zero tolerance approach.

"We must focus on the behaviour and attitudes of perpetrators of violence in order to dismantle them if we are going to have a society where health respectful behaviours are the norm.  

"We will continue to work with our criminal justice partners and hope that this new development within this piece of legislation will ultimately make Northern Ireland a safer place for everyone.”

Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Aisling Reilly also welcomed the legislation and said it would help combat gender-based violence and harassment.

“These offences violate a person’s rights to privacy and bodily integrity and can be a deeply invasive, traumatic and distressing experience, and the fact the laws are now in place is hugely welcomed. 

“Enhanced laws to address online child impersonation and threats to share private sexual images will also take effect. 

“This new legislation will help address everyday misogyny and sexism women face and tackle the underlying attitudes which cause gender-based violence, harassment and intimidation against women and girls.”