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Local News

Hundreds of flashers and ‘upskirters’ reported in South Yorkshire – but the vast majority got away with it


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More than 200 crimes of flashing and sexual voyeurism were reported to police in South Yorkshire last year – and in three out of four cases the offender got off without any punishment.

Ex-Met Police officer Wayne Couzens was accused of driving around Dover naked from the waist down in 2015, and of twice flashing staff at a McDonald’s in Kent just days before he abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in March.

It has been claimed that those accusations of indecent exposure should have led police to conclude that the killer was a potential threat to women.

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However, many of those accused of exposure and voyeurism never have to answer for their crime in a court of law.

That means that even if Couzens had been arrested for indecent exposure, there is every chance he would still have been hired by the Metropolitan Police.

Meanwhile, crimes of exposure and voyeurism went down in South Yorkshire last year during the pandemic and lockdowns which have generally seen crime fall.

There were 242 crimes of this nature in 2020/21.

That was a 22% drop on the 312 offences the previous year.

However, many more crimes of this nature may have been committed, because research shows that the overwhelming majority of victims do not report sexual offences.

Voyeurism includes crimes such as “upskirting”, when an offender attempts to record an image beneath another person’s clothing without their consent, and of watching a private act for the purpose of sexual gratification without consent. Exposure is when someone intentionally exposes their genitals with the intent of causing harm or distress – the crime that Couzens allegedly committed three times before the rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

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These offences carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

In South Yorkshire, Sheffield saw the most offences, with 99 of these crimes recorded in the city last year.

There were also 65 offences in Doncaster, 42 in Rotherham, and 35 in Barnsley.

Of the total 242 offences committed across our area, investigations were completed in 182 cases without anyone receiving any form of punishment of any kind – either because of a lack of a suspect, difficulties with evidence, or because investigation or prosecution was not deemed in the public interest.

That means three out of four offenders (75%) got off scot free.

Of those who were punished, only 15 (6% of all offenders) were charged or received a court summons.

Fourteen offenders received an out of court sanction, such as a formal caution or a penalty notice, and nine people were given a diversionary, educational or intervention activity, in the hope it will prevent reoffending in future.

The responsibility for investigating four cases has been transferred to another authority. In the remaining 18 cases, an outcome has yet to be assigned.

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Mary Morgan, a scholar and expert in body politics focusing on the eradication of violence against women and rape culture from our society, said the numbers were “no surprise”.

“The fact that the majority of victims of indecent exposure will not receive justice, and that offenders will likely walk away without even a slap on the wrist, shows the grim reality that women live in.

“Sexual offences against women have become normalised in our society, practically decriminalised.”

She said indecent exposure is interconnected with other acts of violence against women, and belittling it or treating it as “trivial” upholds rape myths that blame the victim and normalises sexual offences.

“The fact that so few offenders of indecent exposure are charged only upholds rape culture, because the lack of accountability inherently tells our society that people can get away with violence against women, and tells survivors that reporting their crime won’t give them any justice.”

But police and CPS bosses have insisted that these crimes are taken seriously.

A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs Council spokesperson said: “Incidents of indecent exposure can be extremely distressing for those who witness them. Police will take these reports very seriously, investigate, and prosecute where there is evidence to do so.”

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Siobhan Blake, who leads rape and serious sexual offences prosecutions for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), added: “The offences of voyeurism and indecent exposure are alarming offences and demonstrate disturbing patterns of behaviour.

“The CPS takes these offences extremely seriously and will not hesitate to prosecute any cases referred to us that meet our legal test.

“We encourage anyone who is a victim or witness of either offence to immediately report it to the police. Where cases meet our legal test, we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

Across England and Wales, offences of exposure and voyeurism fell by 5% from 10,775 in 2019/20 to 10,203 during the pandemic. But before last year – which saw a reduction in most offences due to the pandemic and lockdowns – crimes of this nature have consistently increased every year since 2013/14, when 6,411 offences of exposure and voyeurism were recorded.

However, the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 may have inflated recent figures by extending the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to include “upskirting” – the crime of using a device, usually a mobile phone, to take an image of someone’s private parts from beneath their clothing.

Across all England and Wales last year, only one in 10 crimes of exposure and voyeurism (10%) resulted in someone being charged or summonsed. In three quarters of cases (75%) no-one received any form of punishment.

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Written by: Rother Radio News

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