Anyone who films a partner during sex without their consent is committing the criminal offence of voyeurism, the Court of Appeal has ruled in a case that may affect the Crown Prosecution Service’s apparent reluctance to bring charges.
The ruling by three judges came at the end of an unsuccessful appeal by a man convicted of filming himself having sex with prostitutes. His lawyers argued that the voyeurism law allowed him to do so since even a bedroom is not a private place if he was there legitimately.
In a highly unusual development in a criminal case, the court allowed someone not directly involved in events to intervene in the hearing to develop arguments that consent should be the primary issue when considering cases under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.
The CPS said afterwards it was urgently reviewing the decision and would assess whether to continue resisting a judicial review claim brought by Emily Hunt, the woman who intervened in the hearing and who has criticised prosecutors for refusing to bring charges after she was filmed naked in a hotel bedroom by a man without her consent.
Katie Russell for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
"In our frontline experience of supporting those who've been subjected to sexual violence and abuse, we know the significant trauma image-based abuse, including being filmed naked or during sex without consent, can cause. It's been an anomaly and failure of law to refuse to recognise such acts as sexual violence until now."
Harriet Wistrich for the Centre of Women's Justice, who are representing Emily Hunt, said:
“In the context of significant reductions in the number of sexual offences prosecuted by the CPS, it is disappointing that they put limited resources into fighting cases for the sake of an argument where complainants have suffered significant trauma and deserve their cases to be put before a jury”.