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CPS “can and will” prosecute street harassment with new guidance

New legal guidance published today sets out a specific chapter on charges relating to public sexual abuse.

Street harassment including cyber-flashing, up-skirting and exposure of genitals in a public place will be prosecuted, the CPS has stressed today. 

As of this morning, the prosecution guidance on public order offences has been updated with a chapter dedicated to this type of crime. 

In a bid to encourage more victims to come forward, the new chapter clarifies the law on exposure, up-skirting, cyberflashing and Section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986 (intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress by words or behaviour) among other offences. 

The guidance defines each of the offences and gives examples of behaviours that may come under them. 

The CPS drew on insights from a Community Accountability Forum focused on street-based harassment, which explored individual’s personal  experiences of harassment and how the CPS can help tackle this criminal behaviour.

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for UN Women last year found that 71% of women in the UK had experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public place, but 95% of cases were not reported to police.

The Public Order Offence guidance explains that public order offences are often a precursor to, or part of, the commission of other offences. 

Siobhan Blake, CPS national lead for Rape and Serious Sexual Offences said: “It is sickening that seven in 10 women – almost three quarters – have been subjected to this disgusting behaviour.

“It is equally concerning that so few incidents of sexual harassment in public are reported.

“The law is clear that if someone exposes themselves, tries to take inappropriate pictures or makes you feel threatened on the street, these are crimes and should not be dismissed.

“Everyone has the right to travel on public transport, dance at a festival or walk the streets without fear of harassment. Feeling safe should not be a luxury for women.”

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