A LAW to prosecute those who engage in the practice of ‘upskirting’ has been welcomed as a milestone in strengthening the law on sexual assault.

The Voyeurism Bill passed into law on February 12 to ban the act, where voyeurs take a picture underneath a woman’s skirt without them knowing.

Sharon Minty from First Light, the charity which provides the Sexual Assault and Referral Service at Gable Cross Police Station in Swindon, said she was delighted with the new rules.

“It’s important that everybody’s privacy is respected,” she told the Adver, “and it’s an important factor for young people to realise that we can’t be indulging in this kind of behaviour.

“We would argue that any form of sexual assault, no matter how minor, is important and people should feel as though they can report any form of sexual assault.”

Angus Macpherson, police and crime commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire, welcomed legislation – which comes into force in the next few months – giving police more powers to help prosecute perpetrators.

“I believe this to be a major milestone in our criminal justice system and should protect everyone - male or female - from this debasing act,” he said.

“This behaviour is often successfully prosecuted under the offence of Outraging Public Decency.

“However, following concerns raised by victims that not all instances of ‘upskirting’ were covered by current law, the government acted to create a new, specific offence.

He added: “The new law will send a clear message that such behaviour is criminal and will not be tolerated and that victims - like Gina Martin - have a voice and can be heard.”

Under the new law perpetrators could face up to two years in prison and, in the most serious of cases of repeat offenders, they will be placed on the sex offenders register.

The move follows a long campaign by victims, charities, ministers and MPs to close a small gap in the law.

The issue was first brought to the public’s attention by the campaign of a young woman called Gina Martin, after two men took a picture up her skirt at a festival.