The government on Friday said it will bring in new offences to criminalise voyeurism and photography of people's intimate parts without consent, such as upskirt photos, after receiving around 200 written submissions in a three-month public consultation exercise.
The public consultation, held between July and October, put forward suggestions by the Law Reform Commission.
The Security Bureau said in its latest report that the majority of the submissions expressed strong support for the legislative proposals.
It noted that currently there is no specific offence of voyeurism or non-consensual photography of intimate parts, and people who perform such acts are prosecuted under charges of “loitering”, “disorder in public places”, “outraging public decency” or “access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent”.
But the bureau said there are various limitations to these existing offences in tackling specific sex crimes.
It said, for example, these offences can only apply to acts occurring in a public place and may not be applicable to acts that happen in private settings. It added that “loitering” and “disorder in a public place” are summary offences with relatively low levels of penalty, not commensurate with the severity of surreptitious intimate photography.
The bureau also noted that a judgement handed down by the Court of Final Appeal in 2019 ruled that the offence of “access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent” does not apply when a person only uses his own device rather than one belonging to someone else – making it no longer appropriate for prosecutors to lay this charge against anybody who takes upskirt photos with their own mobile phone.
After collecting 201 submissions in the public consultation exercise, the bureau said it is now proposing to bring in a new criminal offence of voyeurism – which would make observing or recording intimate acts for obtaining sexual gratification illegal.
Ninety-three percent of the written submissions agreed that the government should introduce such an offence, the report said, with some suggesting that the move would deter such acts on public transport.
The bureau also suggested introducing a new criminal offence of intimate prying, as an alternative to the offence of voyeurism, that would criminalise any observing or recording of intimate acts, regardless of the purpose.
The bureau also proposed criminalising non-consensual photography of intimate parts, regardless of whether the photos are taken for obtaining sexual gratification or not.
Moreover, the government said new offences should also be set up to make it illegal for people to distribute photos or videos obtained through voyeurism or intimate prying. Dissemination of photos of intimate parts taken without consent should also be criminalised, the report said.
And for intimate photos or videos which were previously taken with consent, it should also be illegal for people to distribute them unless consent has been obtained for this as well.
The Security Bureau said it will brief Legco's security panel members on the results of the consultation and the legislative proposals, on January 15.
It said the government is now drafting the proposed amendment bill and is aiming to table it for Legco scrutiny in the second half of this legislative year.