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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 09:02 GMT
NZ aims to jail 'up skirt' snappers
By Kim Griggs
In Wellington, New Zealand

Camera phones are proving popular
Most phones nowadays come with a camera
Hi-tech "peeping Toms" could be sent to jail under proposals put forward by the New Zealand government.

It has decided to clamp down on photography and filming making it an offence to make, publish and possess so-called "up skirt" images and other voyeuristic recordings.

"It is the most serious form of intrusion that someone can make into the privacy of another individual, filming them in the most intimate situations that you can imagine," said New Zealand's Justice Minister Phil Goff.

"Technology makes the problem much worse, both in terms of offensive publications and in terms of voyeuristic behaviour," he told the BBC News website.

"We've got to update the legislation to cater for the changes in technology which make it easier for people both to capture the images and to distribute them."

Behind bars

Under the proposed measures, the making, publishing or distributing of voyeuristic material made without consent will carry a penalty of up to three years in prison.

Knowingly possessing such material without reasonable cause will become an offence carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail.

New Zealand's cabinet will also shortly consider amending the country's laws to allow victims of covert filming to seek civil redress.

New Zealand's Justice Minister Phil Goff
The sort of the guy that goes around doing that might be incorrigible so it may or may not have a deterrent effect, but it makes it an offence and gives the courts clear power to deal with it
Phil Goff, New Zealand justice minister
"The legislation in itself sends a message, sets out penalties and is really a statement and protection of people's most fundamental rights to privacy," said Mr Goff.

"The sort of thing that is covered is filming where people are in private and have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

In New Zealand examples of covert filming have included a technician who, in the course of his work for a theatre group, installed a hidden camera in the dressing room of female performers in a local operatic society production.

There has also been video footage of boys getting changed for swimming, suspected of having been shot from behind a one-way window, and a man who used a camera in the toe of his shoe to film up women's skirts.

Under current New Zealand law, such images would have to be deemed objectionable to be caught by censorship laws.

Prosecution under the country's privacy laws could also fail if the images were only made for personal use.

Degree of privacy

According to a Law Commission review of current laws, even the peeping Tom offence is of little use.

I think that most people would agree that having people looking at them, taking photographs whilst they were doing a bodily function or having a shower or whatever is not on
Michael Bott, New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties
Nowadays peeping Toms do not even have to be physically present, as they can simply set up a camera and leave.

Under New Zealand law, the classic peeping Tom offence, peering into a house, can be committed only at night.

"It was really a concern that it was much easier to take films, for example using a cell phone with camera in it, and secondly, much easier to distribute it," Mr Goff said.

"You just put it on the net. So the damage that the offender can do is that much greater."

"The sort of the guy that goes around doing that might be incorrigible so it may or may not have a deterrent effect, but it makes it an offence and gives the courts clear power to deal with it."

Michael Bott, chairperson of the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties, says the proposed legislation appears quite measured.

"I think that most people would agree that having people looking at them, taking photographs whilst they were doing a bodily function or having a shower or whatever is not on," said Mr Bott.

"The key trick is where they say there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

"If you have a couple kissing or whatever in public, is there an expectation of privacy in the sense that they don't expect their picture to be photographed and broadcast around the place.

"These are things to be teased out in the drafting and obviously when these matters hit the court."

The legislation will be introduced into New Zealand's parliament early next year.


SEE ALSO:
Action urged over Thai sex pests
01 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
US moves to ban furtive photos
13 May 04 |  Technology
The camera phone backlash
11 Jun 04 |  Magazine
Australia bans mobiles from pools
12 Jun 03 |  Technology
Furtive phone photography spurs ban
04 Apr 03 |  Technology
Mobile phone sales still booming
01 Dec 04 |  Business


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