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March 7, 2014

North Shore lawmakers support ‘upskirting’ legislation

North Shore lawmakers were among those who supported or helped speedily pass legislation meant to crack down on those who secretly take so-called upskirt photographs.

“The good news is by the action of the Legislature today, we have clarity for the courts and also very serious penalties and also jail time for anyone who engages in this outrageous behavior,” said state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead. “I’m grateful at the speed with which it went through the Legislature.”

The legislation, if signed by Gov. Deval Patrick, creates harsh penalties, including jail time and fines, for someone surreptitiously sneaking photos of another person’s “sexual or other intimate parts ... under or around the person’s clothing” when the victim would think they are covered up and without consent.

The penalty increases when the victim is under 18: Up to five years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. Sharing or disseminating such images of children can mean either 21/2 years in jail or 10 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.

The legislative reaction was triggered when the SJC Wednesday ruled that the state’s existing peeping Tom laws were too weak to uphold the conviction of Michael Robertson of Andover, who was arrested in August 2010 for allegedly trying to take photos up women’s dresses on the Green Line. Robertson’s attorney argued women “can not expect privacy” on the subway, and current laws only apply those who are nude or partially nude.

“The SJC made it pretty clear that we needed to bring our laws up into the 21st century ... technology,” said state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem. “In some ways it’s a sad commentary we have to do that, but I guess some people don’t understand what’s appropriate and not appropriate.”

“My reaction is a lot of these laws have never been clear,” said state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, the chairman of the Committee on Bills in the Third Reading, “and there were times when people went in and we had to correct things and make sure people had privacy in changing rooms ... but for some reason, these old archaic laws just weren’t comprehensive enough ... I imagine when the laws were first passed, little cameras were not common.”

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