Is it time to get tougher on the ‘Peeping Tom’?

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It’s fair to assume most people across Lancashire would be horrified at the thought of being filmed using the toilet, showering or enjoying an intimate moment with a partner.

The crime of voyeurism was made illegal under a 2003 law – but despite a clear violation of privacy, and the trauma brought to victims, it attracts a much lesser jail term than other forms of sexual violation.

Left: Lobo lost his appeal against his jail term for voyeurism Right: specialist lawyer Rachel Horman

Left: Lobo lost his appeal against his jail term for voyeurism Right: specialist lawyer Rachel Horman

READ MORE: Sex criminal ex officer told he must serve full jail term
This week a disgraced former police officer and athlete who secretly filmed sex acts with women he met on dating sites lost an appeal against his three year jail term.

Jayson Lobo, 48, formerly a Lancashire Police officer, filmed encounters with seven women over several years before he was caught out, and a judge imposed a three year jail term – above the usual two years – in recognition that there was more than one victim.

Lobo, who ran middle distance for England at the Commonwealth Games, had been convicted of 11 counts of voyeurism and claimed the three-year term was too harsh – but three senior judges at the Court of Appeal in London said it was richly deserved for the serious offences.

READ MORE: Upskirting - What is it, and what would a new law mean?
The former international athlete, who won the British 800m title in 1998, met most of his victims on dating website and covertly recorded them on his mobile phone.

Preston Soroptimist Karen Rainsford

Preston Soroptimist Karen Rainsford

His deceit – which the sentencing judge described as “staggering” – was uncovered when one of his victims found out he had a long-term partner during their relationship.

She had earlier caught him on one occasion filming her as they had sex but he had promised her he would delete it.

While still a relatively new crime, campaigners argue voyeurism legislation is already outdated because of the advances in technology.

In previous years, a voyeur would have been recognised as a ‘peeping Tom’, a person who directly but secretly observed another person whilst they undressed, washed or engaged in sexual activities.

It would usually be done through peeping through another person’s window or door.

But today, with a plethora of camera enabled technology readily available on Lancashire’s high streets, it is far easier for offenders to capture forbidden material for their own gratification - and potentially share them across the globe.

So is it time the law was strengthened to account for the advances in technology?

Rachel Horman, Head of Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Forced Marriage, at Watson-Ramsbottom solicitors said: “One of the problem is that I don’t think it is taken seriously.

“The maximum sentence is two years, which does not reflect the impact it has on victims.

“The law is behind in terms of what’s happening to victims because now images and clips can end up on the internet.

“Today the reality of voyeurism is much more horrific than when the law was brought in.

“The impact for victims is horrendous.

“In the past people used to peep through windows but today there are phones, hidden cameras and images of people engaged in certain acts - without knowing - can go viral on the internet.

“Similarly revenge porn type offences only attract two years jail terms, and there is a current debate about whether the law should incorporate upskirting.

“Victims have killed themselves over things like this. Others have pulled out of prosecutions because they are traumatised and embarrassed.

“We need to see much more robust sentences if we’re serious about tackling this - and we need to victims faith in the system.”

She also feels voyeurism and revenge porn offences can be linked to stalking, coercive control, and even honour based violence because perpetrators can threaten to reveal intimate footage to the world.

A current campaign to make upskirting - the practice of secretly taking a photo up a woman’s skirt - illegal is a typical example of how easy it is for offenders to abuse modern technology.

Festival goer and freelance writer Gina Martin, 26, launched a campaign to make the practice illegal after catching two men taking a picture up her skirt at a British Summer Time music festival in Hyde Park last year.

She took the perpetrator’s phone to show security guards, who called the police.

But after telling the offender to delete the photo, she was told that the case was closed.

The Conservative MP for Christchurch Sir Christopher Chope had previously objected to a private member’s bill being used to create a new offence of upskirting, saying he supported the law change but stopped the bill from progressing last Friday, he said because he disapproved of legislation being brought in without a debate.

Karen Rainford, a member of Preston Soroptimists group - part of a global movement supporting the education and empowerment of women – says: “As a women’s organisation, we try and highlight issues that are in any way contentious or belittling to women. Voyeurism and upskirting are two such issues. “We feel that it is shocking that these crimes are not considered sexual assault and treated as such.

“The victims must feel violated, embarrassed and desecrated.”

Referring to Gina Martin she added: “She has shown the strength and determination and is a brave young woman. We need more like her to shout out when they are wronged and not be made to feel they are in the wrong.”