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Reps and union leaders meet over ‘upskirting’

North Belfast People Before Profit Councillor  Fiona Ferguson North Belfast People Before Profit Councillor Fiona Ferguson
By Michael Jackson

NORTH Belfast political representatives have joined union officials in meeting two teachers who were the victims of ‘upskirting’ to discuss the need for legislation around the issue.
The meeting, which took place at Stormont on Monday, comes after the conviction of, Timothy Boomer (18), who was recently convicted of five counts of outraging public decency in relation to videos he took as a pupil at a Co Fermanagh school in 2015 and 2016.
In itself, the act of ‘upskirting’ is not a crime in the North of Ireland, and campaigners have long called for legislation on the issue, which was discussed at Monday’s meeting.
Speaking to the North Belfast News, NASUWT official, Justin McCamphill, said: “We held the meeting to give the victims in that case to set out their experiences and to discuss why the current legislation is inadequate.
“The women actually had to take a judicial review against the PPS before the case was prosecuted. It was prosecuted under counts of outraging public decency.
“The problem with that law is that it doesn’t treat them as the victims – it treats the general public as the victims. The conviction only happened because it was proven to be a public place because there was more than two people present. If there were no other people there it wouldn’t be illegal at all.
“We were there to argue for specific laws. There are similar laws in Scotland, England and Wales, but we want our own bespoke laws.”
He added: “In the event that the assembly is up and running we will be going to the justice committee and asking them to make a recommendation to the Department of Justice to bring in legislation to address this.”
Following the meeting, North Belfast People Before Profit Councillor, Fiona Ferguson stressed the importance of better legislation and culture change to deal with this kind of sexual crime.
“These women were let down by their employer, the police and the legal system. At points they were essentially told ‘boys will be boys’ and even when a prosecution was made, it was under common law of ‘outraging public decency’, which means that in the eyes of the law, the public witnesses were the victims, not the teachers who were upskirted.
“We need comprehensive legislation that deals with cases where images are taken deliberately and without consent, so that victims can have a reasonable expectation of justice. And we need a societal shift in how we view consent. It is not good enough that in 2019 women feel unsafe in their workplaces. It is not good enough that cases of upskirting are being dealt with in ways that reinforce the ‘boys will be boys’ culture that justifies sexual crime.
“The DoJ proposes to adopt the voyeurism legislation in Britain but it would not have led to a prosecution in the case of these teachers, and that is shows that it is not comprehensive enough.’
“These women are incredibly brave for speaking out for other women and girls, and NASUWT should be commended for supporting them and leading th

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