EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

March 7, 2014

Legislature acts fast on prohibiting 'upskirting'

BOSTON — Local lawmakers say it was important for the Legislature to move fast to close a “shocking” loophole in current laws that allowed an Andover man to get away secretly photographing up women’s skirts with his cell phone while on the MBTA.

The Massachusetts House and Senate yesterday approved a bill prohibiting the covert photographing, videotaping or electronic surveillance of someone’s “sexual or intimate parts,” regardless of whether those parts are naked or covered by clothing or undergarments, in situations when a reasonable person would believe that their sexual or other intimate parts would not be visible to the public.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Deval Patrick said he would sign the bill, an action that could take place as soon as today.

Approval of the bill, which also would apply to male victims, came a day after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Michael Robertson of Andover broke no law when he took cellphone photos up the skirts of female passengers riding the Boston Green Line subway.

State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives said the SJC ruling was “shocking” in that it allowed someone to violate a person’s “personaI space.”

“This closes a dangerous oversight in the law,” Ives said yesterday after the 39-0 Senate vote.

Ives said it was very satisfying to be in a position to enact swift change especially considering how important updating the law was to protecting a woman’s right to privacy.

“And we corrected that today,” Ives said.

Top lawmakers said the bill will send a clear message to those who take so-called “upskirt” photos.

“It is sexual harassment. It’s an assault on another person whether it’s a child or an adult,” Senate President Therese Murray said moments after the Senate unanimously approved the bill. “Woman and children should be able to go to public places without feeling that they are not protected by the law.”

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