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New rules say anyone making sexual comments in public to face charges

·2-min read

New rules set out by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in a bid to help women and girls feel safer when going about daily life, say that anyone who is caught making an unwanted sexual comments in public will be charged – even if it's a one-off incident. It's said that these new guidelines, which apply in England and Wales, are part of the CPS' new commitment to clamp down on "sexually threatening or abusive" remarks in general.

Speaking about the CPS' decision to brief staff with these new guidelines, Siobhan Blake, CPS lead for rape and serious offences, said, "Feeling safe should not be a luxury for women."

It's reported [via the BBC] that the government is also mulling over whether or not to implement further stricter laws in relation to street harassment, and are currently running a consultation on whether or not to extend legislation that makes it an offence to cause "intentional harassment, alarm or distress" to a person because of their sex.

Photo credit: Iakov Filimonov - Getty Images
Photo credit: Iakov Filimonov - Getty Images

The CPS staff are now stressing that public order laws can be used to prosecute street harassment and cat-calling, even in incidents where a "one-off, less serious comment" is made. The guidance also states that "examples could include unwanted sexual comments... where it is not possible to prove that the perpetrator had an intention to cause harassment, alarm, or distress" – again showing a real marked difference on what is, and isn't, deemed as acceptable behaviour in the eyes of the law.

Police now no longer have to prove that what happened was "intentionally sexual" either.

Cyberflashing, wherein unwanted nude images are sent to a person without consent, upskirting images, or photos of taken of women who are breastfeeding, have also been mentioned in the new CPS rulebook.

"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,"Blake explained. "Everyone has the right to travel on public transport, dance at a festival or walk the streets without fear of harassment."

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