The Conservative MP who single-handedly blocked the criminalisation of upskirting has defended his much-criticised move
Sir Christopher Chope told his local newspaper he supports outlawing the “vulgar, humiliating and unacceptable” act of upskirting, and added: “The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth.”
The 71-year-old MP for Christchurch in Dorset shouted down the bill that would have criminalised what Theresa May called “invasive” and “degrading” act when she pledged to revive an attempt to ban it.
In an interview published in the Daily Echo on Sunday, the Tory grandee said he was acting on a long-held principle that has seen him routinely oppose backbench private members bills.
“I feel a bit sore about being scapegoated over this,” he said.
“The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth.
“It’s defamatory of my character and it’s very depressing some of my colleagues have been perpetuating that in the past 48 hours.”
He urged the Government to find the “fastest, fairest and surest passage” for a bill banning people from taking pictures up someone’s clothing without consent, and accused ministers of “hijacking” backbenchers’ time with the Friday afternoon debate.
Sir Christopher was met with a barrage of criticism and heckled with cries of “shame!” when he shouted an objection during the second reading of the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill.
Gina Martin, an upskirting victim whose petition to criminalise the act won her a legion of celebrity supporters and political backing, said the move left her extremely upset.
Culture Minister Margot James said Sir Christopher had brought the Tories into disrepute, while the Prime Minister expressed her “disappointment” at his move.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “dismayed and appalled” and Labour MP Richard Burgon said he was “disgusted”.
Without a specific law, victims in England and Wales must seek prosecution of upskirting through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment.
A specific law already exists in Scotland and the blocked bill would have seen upskirting offenders face a maximum of two years in prison.
Mrs May reassured on Sunday that the Government would provide time for anti-upskirting legislation to pass through Parliament.
“It is an invasive, offensive act and we need to take action against it,” she added.