Sunak says he would make downblousing a criminal offence

At the moment in England and Wales, acts such as upskirting or voyeurism are criminalised but downblousing is not covered by existing legislation.

27 July 2022

Rishi Sunak has pledged to make downblousing a criminal offence, as part of a major crackdown on sex offenders to protect women and girls.

If he succeeds in the race to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, the former chancellor announced he would make the act of taking photos down a woman’s top without consent, or “downblousing”, illegal.

At the moment in England and Wales, acts such as upskirting or voyeurism are criminalised but downblousing is not covered by existing legislation.

The former chancellor also said he would create a new emergency taskforce to hunt down grooming gangs.

Mr Sunak said: “Sexual violence against women and girls should be treated as a national emergency until it has been defeated.

“As a father of two girls, I want them to be able to go for a walk in the evening or to a shop at night without any fear of threat.

“As chancellor, I boosted support for victims to record levels – quadruple those under Labour – and a ground-breaking new approach to policing which is helping drive up prosecutions of sex offenders.

“As prime minister, I will go further. I will make it a criminal offence if you harass women by taking intimate images of them without their consent, and will introduce a major crackdown on grooming gangs.

“We can not let sensitivities over race stop us from catching dangerous criminals who prey on women, and I will not stop until we live in a society where women and girls can go about their daily lives feeling safe and secure.”

As part of his crackdown on sex offenders, Mr Sunak said the new emergency taskforce would work at the heart of the National Crime Agency, launching an investigation into any town or city where significant grooming gang activity has been found.

Suspects would be forced to explain why they have the phone numbers or contact details of children, and would have to reveal their ethnicity or nationality for the purposes of crime prevention.

The former chancellor would also launch a national grooming gangs whistleblower network to gather intelligence on gangs and create a dedicated database to help the police monitor suspects.

In order to help police identify victims of grooming gangs, Mr Sunak would boost their training, reminding officers to serve without fear or favour, including the fear of being accused of racism.

Conservative leadership bid
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has pledged to better protect women and girls (James Manning/PA)

Furthermore, to prevent any foreign perpetrators using the Human Rights Act to frustrate their deportation order, the Richmond MP would pass the Bill of Rights.

In a bid to support victims of sexual assault, a Sunak government would also extend mental health support for rape victims to be available to them for life and would ensure all survivors of sexual violence have access to same-sex spaces.

The former chancellor’s announcement comes hours after his Tory leadership rival pledged to better protect women and girls from violence and abuse, as she claimed it is the responsibility of all political leaders to “do more”.

Liz Truss insisted that over the last two years, the nation has been “shocked” by the number of high profile murders of women, many in London.

Under her plans, a standalone offence to criminalise harassment would be introduced alongside a domestic abuse register, which would include coercive and controlling behaviour and financial abuse.

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