Northern Ireland

Enniskillen school pupil took upskirt images 'as prank'

woman in skirt Image copyright Getty Images

A teenager who took upskirt images of two teachers at a Fermanagh school committed a "childish prank", but not a criminal act, a court has been told.

The boy is charged with five counts of committing an act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature and outraging public decency.

He took five images involving two female teachers at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School in 2015 and 2016.

He was 14 and 15 years old at the time of the incidents.

The defendant, who is no longer a pupil at the school, did not appear for the hearing at the youth court sitting in Strabane.

The fact that the images were taken by the pupil are not in dispute, but the case centres on legal definitions of the offence.

'Trying to shoehorn the facts'

There is currently no offence of "upskirting" in criminal law in Northern Ireland.

Defence barrister Frank O'Donoghue QC said Parliament had recently shown an "identifiable need that conduct of this type needs to be subject of a statutory offence".

However, he said "the prosecution is trying to shoehorn the facts of this case into the current unsatisfactory state of the law".

The act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature must happen in a public place where there is a real possibility members of the public might witness what happens.

Prosecution lawyer Michael Chambers argued that "upskirting" has on many occasions found to amount to an act to outrage public decency.

'Gross and humiliating'

He said the motivation for taking an image of this type is "irrelevant".

He described it as a "gross and humiliating attack on these two ladies carrying out their work" and said other pupils and members of staff were present.

Image copyright Geograph

If the court ruled that they were not "members of the general public", visitors to the school would meet this definition.

The defence lawyer, Mr O'Donoghue, said "these teachers have been the victims of an unsavoury act" and his client now realised that.

The "stupidity of his own conduct is now better appreciated" he added.

"The victims have been outraged with the invasion of their privacy but that is not the test."

'Teenage bravado'

He said his client was "a teenage boy engaged in a childish prank to impress his peers" and it was not an act that would outrage people.

"Dare say this is not the first time such an event had happened within a school setting," Mr O'Donoghue said.

"We live in a world changed by mobile phones and cameras.

"But teenage bravado has always been a part of life."

He argued the circumstances of how these images were taken were unknown.

"We don't know if his fellow pupils knew and laughed, guffawed along with him," he said.

He argued that a school is not a place to which the general public has access and that the prosecution case was not proven.

Initially the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decided not to prosecute the pupil for the offence of voyeurism.

It said that the activities reported to them by police as having been committed did not constitute an offence in criminal law.

The PPS said that the women teachers involved "were not observed doing a private act and therefore the evidential test in respect of the offence of voyeurism" was not met.

The youth court panel reserved judgment and will deliver its ruling next month.