Legality of Voyeurism

by admin on August 15th, 2010

filed under Voyeur

Voyeurism is not a crime in common law. In common law countries it is only a crime if made so by legislation. In Canada, for example, voyeurism was not a crime when the case Frey v. Fedoruk et al. arose in 1947. In that case, in 1950, the Supreme Court of Canada held that courts could not criminalize voyeurism by classifying it as a breach of the peace and that Parliament would have to specifically outlaw it. On November 1, 2005, this was done when section 162 was added to the Canadian Criminal Code, declaring voyeurism to be a sexual offense.

In some cultures, voyeurism is considered to be deviant and even a sex crime. In the United Kingdom, non-consensual voyeurism became a criminal offense on May 1, 2004. However, some societies tolerate it in some circumstances (e.g., adolescent “Peeping Toms” and the UK dogging craze). Little to no research has been done into the demographics of voyeurs.

In the English case of R v Turner the manager of a sports center filmed four women taking showers. There was no indication that the footage had been shown to anyone else or distributed in any way. The defendant pleaded guilty. The Court of Appea confirmed a sentence of nine months’ imprisonment to reflect the seriousness of the abuse of trust and the traumatic effect on the victims.

Another English case in 2009, “R v Wilkins”, resulted in a man who filmed his intercourse with five of his lovers for his own private viewing, being sentenced to imprisonment for eight months and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register, where his name would remain for ten years.

In the United States, video voyeurism is an offense in nine states and may require the convicted criminal to register as a sex offender. The original case that led to the criminalization of voyeurism has been made into a television movie called Video Voyeur and documents the criminalization of secret photography. Criminal voyeurism statutes are related to invasion of privacy laws but are specific to unlawful surreptitious surveillance without consent and unlawful recordings including the broadcast, dissemination, publication, or selling of recordings involving places and times when a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a reasonable supposition they are not being photographed or filmed by “any mechanical, digital or electronic viewing device, camera or any other instrument capable of recording, storing or transmitting visual images that can be utilized to observe a person.”

In the Louise Ogborn strip search incident, the perpetrator was said to be engaged in a form of virtual voyeurism.