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Calls for Sir Christopher Chope to be sacked stripped of knighthood over upskirting bill block



  • Backbenchers tried to get new upskirting law passed in the Commons yesterday
  • Parliamentary procedure meant a single objection could see it blocked 
  • Sir Christopher Chope shouted 'object' as his colleagues cried out 'shame'
  • Chope known for blocking Private Members Bills because they aren't debated  
  • His actions were met with 'disappointment' from PM and fury on social media 

By Tim Sculthorpe, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonline and Ian Drury Home Affairs Editor For The Daily Mail

Published: 03:39 EDT, 16 June 2018 | Updated: 05:14 EDT, 16 June 2018

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Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope has been accused of 'protecting upskirters' after he blocked a bill that would make them criminals in Parliament yesterday.  

The Conservative MP shouted 'object' as backbenchers prepared for the new law to be passed through the Commons.

His single objection meant he was able to stop the law being approved, triggering cries of 'shame' from his colleagues and fury on social media. 

He was branded 'sickening' and an 'utterly disgraceful human', with some even calling for him to be sacked and stripped of his knighthood. 

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was 'disappointed' by the block but promised she would get the bill through another way. 

Sir Christopher Chope (pictured in the Commons yesterday) shouted 'object' when the draft law was raised in the Commons yesterday, slamming the brakes on the attempt
Sir Christopher Chope (pictured in the Commons yesterday) shouted 'object' when the draft law was raised in the Commons yesterday, slamming the brakes on the attempt

Sir Christopher Chope (pictured in the Commons yesterday) shouted 'object' when the draft law was raised in the Commons yesterday, slamming the brakes on the attempt

Theresa May tweeted her 'disappointment' at Sir Christopher Chope's actions yesterday 
Theresa May tweeted her 'disappointment' at Sir Christopher Chope's actions yesterday 

Theresa May tweeted her 'disappointment' at Sir Christopher Chope's actions yesterday 

Mrs May tweeted: 'Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

'I am disappointed the Bill didn't make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament - with Government support - soon.'

Campaigner Gina Martin, 26, who has been fighting for the law to be changed after she became a victim of 'upskirting' at a festival in London's Hyde Park last summer, said she was 'disappointed and extremely upset'. 

She told the BBC Sir Christopher confessed he 'wasn't really sure' what upskirting was and has agreed to meet him to 'help him' understand. 

The Tory MP quickly started trending on Twitter with users of all political colours furious at his actions.

The phrase 'choping' and the hashtag '#dontbeachope' were used thousands of times, referring to his record of blocking Private Members Bills on a matter of principle - regardless of their subject matter.  

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer yesterday insisited the law would be changed as Tory MPs reacted with horror to their colleague's obstruction.

Tory MP Bob Neill wrote to the Prime Minister demanding the Government to make time to pass the new law. 

Senior Tory Tom Tughendhat said it was 'shaming' for the party while Business Minister Margot James insisted the Government was determined to defy Sir Christopher and change the law. 

Former minister Nick Boles attacked Sir Christopher as an MP 'whose knuckles drag along the ground'. 

The draft law came forward after Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse was backed by the Ministry of Justice to try and deliver it from the backbenches.

Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse (pictured moving her bill yesterday) had secured support from the Ministry of Justice to try and change the law from the backbenches
Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse (pictured moving her bill yesterday) had secured support from the Ministry of Justice to try and change the law from the backbenches

Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse (pictured moving her bill yesterday) had secured support from the Ministry of Justice to try and change the law from the backbenches

But because it was not debated in full, any MP could stop the reform from making progress by simply shouting 'object'.

Lack of debate is frequently cited by Sir Christopher - who has blocked dozens of pieces of legislation in the same way - as a reason for objecting to a Bill on principle.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins, who is also minister for women, joined cries of 'shame' after Sir Christopher blocked the bill that had been proposed by Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse. 

Moments later, the 71-year-old also opposed Government-backed plans to give police dogs and horses extra legal protections from attack.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight by 26-year-old Gina Martin, who launched a petition to make upskirting a sexual offence after realising some some took a photo up her skirt at a music festival in Hyde Park last July when she took a selfie (pictured right). The alleged perpetrators are obscured in black and ringed.
The issue was thrust into the spotlight by 26-year-old Gina Martin, who launched a petition to make upskirting a sexual offence after realising some some took a photo up her skirt at a music festival in Hyde Park last July when she took a selfie (pictured right). The alleged perpetrators are obscured in black and ringed.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight by 26-year-old Gina Martin, who launched a petition to make upskirting a sexual offence after realising some some took a photo up her skirt at a music festival in Hyde Park last July when she took a selfie (pictured right). The alleged perpetrators are obscured in black and ringed.

Campaigner Gina Martin tweeted her response (pictured) to Sir Christopher's actions
Campaigner Gina Martin tweeted her response (pictured) to Sir Christopher's actions
Ms Martin, 26, started campaigning after she became a victim of upskirting at a festival last summer
Ms Martin, 26, started campaigning after she became a victim of upskirting at a festival last summer

Campaigner Gina Martin tweeted her response (pictured) to Sir Christopher's actions

After Sir Christopher's intervention, Ms Hobhouse told Sky News: 'I think it's very frustrating and annoying that one MP can block a consensus that had been built over several months.

'One MP can block this - it's shameful, it's annoying. It's not the end of the road, but I'm very angry.' 

How was the ban on upskirting blocked?  

Tory Sir Christopher Chope was able to block the proposed ban on upskirting with a single word yesterday.

Because the change in the law was being introduced from the backbenches and not by the Government, it can only be debated on a Friday and must take its place in a queue.

The draft legislation yesterday was eighth in the queue - meaning it was never going to be debated in full.

MPs had a chance to wave it over its first Parliamentary hurdle without debate - but because there was no debate any MP can shout 'object' to stop this happening.

This is what Sir Christopher did yesterday.  

The issue was thrust into the spotlight by Miss Martin, who launched a petition to make upskirting a sexual offence after someone took a photo up her skirt at a music festival in Hyde Park last July.

She claimed police told her there was nothing they could do as the man involved had 'done nothing illegal'.

Following the stalling of the new laws, Miss Martin said: 'I am obviously extremely upset and disappointed that Sir Christopher decided to object on this vitally important Bill for the women of England and Wales.

'I remain positive, though. We knew this was a risk - but I now stand with powerful, passionate women and men behind me and I am confident that (Justice Minister) Lucy Fraser is committed to - and will - close this gap in the law.' 

Miss Martin said she had spoken to Sir Christopher and was 'hopeful that he will become a supporter of the Bill'. 

Miss Martin can be identified because what happened to her is not covered by anonymity rules in the Sexual Offences Act.  

The highly intrusive practice typically involves individuals secretly taking photographs under a person's clothing without them knowing with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks.

There have been a string of cases of men caught using smartphones to capture illicit images on public transport, in busy shops and at music venues.

But because upskirting has not been classified as a separate crime, offenders often escape punishment as securing a conviction has proved notoriously difficult.

Theresa May is facing calls to use Government time to change the law on upskirting after the measure was blocked by one of her MPs 
Theresa May is facing calls to use Government time to change the law on upskirting after the measure was blocked by one of her MPs 

Theresa May is facing calls to use Government time to change the law on upskirting after the measure was blocked by one of her MPs 

Tory MP Bob Neill wrote to the Prime Minister (pictured) calling on the Government to change the law during main business instead of leaving it to the procedural traps of backbench discussions on a Friday
Tory MP Bob Neill wrote to the Prime Minister (pictured) calling on the Government to change the law during main business instead of leaving it to the procedural traps of backbench discussions on a Friday

Tory MP Bob Neill wrote to the Prime Minister (pictured) calling on the Government to change the law during main business instead of leaving it to the procedural traps of backbench discussions on a Friday

Furious Tory MPs lashed out at their colleague for blocking the attempt at changing the law, accusing him of being a 'dinosaur' living in a different century. 

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said: 'The Government is determined to make it illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent. Individual MPs can delay, but not prevent this from becoming law. We will make it happen.' 

Tory MP Bob Neill, who is chairman of the Commons justice committee wrote to the Prime Minister asking that Government time be made available to allow the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill to have its second reading. 

Business Minster Margot James said: 'The Goverment is determined that it becomes illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent, Chope can delay, but not prevent, Wera Hobhouse's bill from becoming law.'

Business Minster Margot James said: 'The Goverment is determined that it becomes illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent' 
Business Minster Margot James said: 'The Goverment is determined that it becomes illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent' 

Business Minster Margot James said: 'The Goverment is determined that it becomes illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent' 

East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton warned: 'This kind of thing does far more damage to the public's view of our party than endless debates about customs arrangements.' 

'Do not underestimate just how furious many Tory MPs are about this.' 

Senior Tory Tom Tughendhat said it was 'shaming' for the party and blasted: 'The Conservatives I joined believe in human dignity and welcoming ideas that protect our community.

'Chope is wrong and should apologise.' 

Conor Burns said: 'Embarrassing behaviour by Chris Chope this afternoon. Not for the first time.

'I share a constituency boundary with him. But clearly not a century. Pleased Govt will now work to bring legislation in after his wrecking of the Private Members Bill.'

East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton warned: 'This kind of thing does far more damage to the public's view of our party than endless debates about customs arrangements.'
East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton warned: 'This kind of thing does far more damage to the public's view of our party than endless debates about customs arrangements.'

East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton warned: 'This kind of thing does far more damage to the public's view of our party than endless debates about customs arrangements.'

Senior Tory Tom Tughendhat said it was 'shaming' for the party
Senior Tory Tom Tughendhat said it was 'shaming' for the party

Senior Tory Tom Tughendhat said it was 'shaming' for the party

Because the proposed change to the law was not debated in full, any MP could stop the reform from making progress by simply shouting 'object' (pictured is the Commons during debates yesterday)
Because the proposed change to the law was not debated in full, any MP could stop the reform from making progress by simply shouting 'object' (pictured is the Commons during debates yesterday)

Because the proposed change to the law was not debated in full, any MP could stop the reform from making progress by simply shouting 'object' (pictured is the Commons during debates yesterday)

Under the current law, culprits can potentially be charged with voyeurism or outraging public decency. 

But voyeurism legislation is generally only used against people who hide cameras in changing rooms and public toilets.

Who is Sir Christopher Chope and why did he block the new law?

Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope has made a career out of blocking back bench legislation in Parliament.

The Tory MP, 71, has halted progress on laws about the Hillborough disaster, a pardon for Alan Turing and wild animals in circuses.

He has yet to confirm why he blocked yesterday's Bill but frequently cites a lack of debate, faulty drafting or duplication of law.  

Among dozens of Bills he had blocked, Sir Chistopher has also opposed: 

  • Free hospital parking for carers
  • Making revenge evictions a crime
  • Laws on same-sex marriage 
  • Protecting police dogs 
  • Careers advice for sixth formers
  • National standards for taxi licenses  

Sir Christopher, first elected in 1983, has repeatedly criticised the ability of MPs to make small changes to the law from the backbenches.

Despite his opposition to many backbench bills, the father of two is also the architect of dozens of his own - typically as a way to take up time and block other proposals.

He was knighted earlier this year for 'political and public service'. 

This is because it applies to activities in a private, rather than a public place such as a festival, bus or school hall.

The law on outraging public decency requires an image to be lewd, obscene or disgusting, and experts say 'upskirt' photos do not always meet these criteria.

A Government spokesman insisted efforts would continue to change the law - but did not commit to doing so in Government time to avoid the procedural trick used yesterday.

They said: 'This behaviour is a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

'It cannot be tolerated, so it is absolutely right that the government supports this Bill to make 'upskirting' a specific offence.

'Whilst we are disappointed this Bill did not pass second reading yesterday, we look forward to supporting these measures through the House at the earliest possible opportunity.'

Following a campaign, Justice Secretary David Gauke has confirmed the Government will support legislation to close the loopholes in order to protect victims and increase convictions. 

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: 'This behaviour is a hideous invasion of privacy.

'By making upskirting a specific offence, we are sending a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators will be properly punished.'

The new law would bring the punishment for upskirting in line with other existing voyeurism offences, and the changes will see offenders face a maximum of two years in prison. 

The most serious offenders will be placed on the sex offenders register.

The offence will cover instances where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress or alarm.

Katie Ghose, head of Women's Aid, said: 'We hope that this new criminal offence will be another step forward in challenging the prevailing sexist attitudes and behaviours.'

WHAT IS UPSKIRTING AND WHY IS IT NOT ILLEGAL? 

Upskirting often sees perpetrators taking photographs or videos of a victim's groin area from under their clothing and more often than not without that person's knowledge.

Campaigners say existing laws for voyeurism, public decency and public order to not provide enough scope for a conviction, with many victims concerned about access to justice.

It also is not covered by the Sexual Offences Act.

The lack of a specific law is why Gina Martin's case was dismissed by the Met last year.

The picture taken of her was not considered by investigators to fall foul of either public decency laws or meet the test for voyeurism. 

She was was told by the Met police 'there's not much we can do' because 'it's not a graphic image'. 

Yesterday's legislation would have made the practice a specific offence punishable by up to two years in jail and a place on the sex offenders register. 

As of February 2018, the Government has said the law around upskirting is 'under review' amid fresh calls to make the cruel craze a specific criminal offence.

The first official figures on the practice show complainants as young as 10, with only one-third of police forces in England and Wales having any data on the prevalence of upskirting.

 

Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope 'wasn't really sure what upskirting was' before blocking bill to make it a crime, claims 'disappointed' campaigner who fought to get it heard in Parliament  

By Debbie White for MailOnline 

Upskirting campaigner Gina Martin with lawyer Ryan Whelan in London
Upskirting campaigner Gina Martin with lawyer Ryan Whelan in London

Upskirting campaigner Gina Martin with lawyer Ryan Whelan in London

A campaigner has claimed that the Tory MP who blocked a bid to make 'upskirting' a criminal offence punishable by two years in jail did so because he had no idea what the practice was.

After Sir Christopher Chope scuppered plans to criminalise upskirting, by objecting to the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill in the Commons yesterday, Gina Martin, an upskirting victim campaigning for the ban, told the BBC he admitted he 'wasn't really sure' what upskirting was.

She replied: 'Well, I can help you with that.'

Ms Martin said he told her that as he felt the issue had not been debated, he had objected on principle.

The 26-year-old freelance writer living in London has been campaigning for the legal ban after two men took a picture up her skirt while at the British Summer Time festival in London's Hyde Park in 2017.

But the former Tory Minister single-handedly blocked the bill making it a criminal offence to take a picture under someone's clothing without their consent.

Upskirting was due to form part of the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill – proposed by Wera Hobhouse, Lib Dem MP for Bath – which was expected to be nodded through the Commons on Friday following the Government's public backing, unless there were any objections.

After Ms Martin spoke with Sir Christopher, about his blocking of the ban, the former environment and transport minister agreed to meet with the campaigner, along with her lawyer Ryan Whelan, and Ms Hobhouse, to discuss it further.

Moments after speaking with him, Ms Martin released an official statement yesterday via Twitter on Sir Christopher 'blocking our bill to make upskirting a sexual offence'.

She posted: 'I am obviously extremely upset and disappointed that Sir Chope decided to object on this vitally important bill for the women of England and Wales.

'I remain positive, though. We knew this was a risk – but I now stand with powerful, passionate women and men behind me and I am confident that [justice minister Lucy Frazer] is committed to – and will – close this gap in the law.

'Ryan, Wera and I will be meeting with Lucy shortly to discuss how we move forward together.

'Ryan and I have just spoken with Sir Christopher and he has agreed to meet with the two of us to discuss the bill. I'm positive and hopeful that he will become a supporter.'

Mr Whelan tweeted that they would meet to discuss the bill next week.

He added: 'Sir Christopher Chope's objection will not stop Gina's campaign from succeeding.'

Ms Frazer said on Twitter: 'I am very disappointed that the bill on upskirting did not progress today. We remain committed to making sure that it becomes a criminal offence and have every expectation that this will happen.'

Ms Hobhouse, who has criticised Sir Christopher for being 'out-of-touch' and sabotaging the bill, has asked for it to return to the House on July 6.

Up until the bill was blocked by just one MP, upskirting was expected to become a specific criminal offence, with the worst offenders facing up to two years in jail, after the Government backed a campaign to criminalise the cruel craze.

The Ministry of Justice announced its support to ban the practice, which sees perpetrators take images under a person's clothing without their consent.

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