Tory councilor who was one of the first in Britain to be arrested under ‘upskirting’ laws running free
Lee Hawthorne, 41, who was a member of Gloucester City Council earlier this month, pleaded guilty to voyeurism and attempted voyeurism
A former Conservative councilor who was one of the first people in Britain to be arrested under new upskirting laws has avoided prison.
Lee Hawthorne, 41, was a member of Gloucester City Council when he took indecent photos of a woman’s skirt in a TK Maxx store in June 2019 – just two months after ‘upskirting’ became a criminal offense.
Following a police investigation, the father of two children was arrested in July 2019 and resigned from Gloucester City Council in April 2020.
Subsequent investigations of his computer equipment revealed that Hawthorne had also secretly filmed another woman in an office in April 2019.
Earlier this month, the former Gloucester City Councilor pleaded guilty to voyeurism and attempted voyeurism.
Hawthorne, of Abbeydale, Gloucester, has today been sentenced to nine months in prison at Bristol Crown Court, with a two-year suspended sentence.
He was also given a two-year community assignment that included 300 hours of unpaid work and 30 days of rehabilitation.
The court heard that the first offense occurred in a TK Maxx in Northgate Street, Gloucester, on June 27, 2019.
CCTV taken from in-store cameras showed Hawthorne following his victim and squatting twice behind a clothing aisle to film under her skirt.
His victim, who automatically remains anonymous under the Sexual Offenses Act, spoke bravely after Hawthorne’s conviction.
The woman said, “That incident and its subsequent denials and lies made me question my trust in others.
One of the incidents took place at a TK Maxx on Northgate Street, Gloucester, in 2019
Hawthorne was also given a two-year community assignment that included 300 hours of unpaid work and 30 days of rehab
“It has made me very anxious, disrupted my sleep, and worried about my mental health.
‘Since [the officer] showed me the video where I have been tearful and experienced several bouts of fear and a very depressed mood, driven by the negative thoughts and feelings of this crime.
“I am concerned about how this incident will affect me, my family and my work in the future and have had to take time off from work because of the impact of his actions.”
Prosecutor Ellen McAnaw described the incident, saying: “The defendant sees her and almost immediately takes his phone out of his pocket.
Police investigations show that now he turns on his camera and takes out another cell phone and covers that phone to hide what he’s doing.
“He is seen squatting behind her twice and that’s where she sees him on the ground, arm outstretched towards her legs, and thinks he was trying to take a picture under her skirt.”
The second victim also spoke of her disgust that Hawthorne is invading her privacy.
‘When I saw the video, I suffered a lot of shock and grief. Clearly he had committed a very personal invasion of my privacy, ”she said.
‘Upskirting’ is an informal term that refers to placing equipment such as a camera or cell phone under a person’s clothing to take a voyeuristic photo without their permission.
It became a criminal offense in April 2019.
As part of his sentence, Hawthorne was ordered to do 300 hours of community service and 30 days of probation to deal with his insult.
Hawthorne has been sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years at Bristol Crown Court today
He was also placed on the sex offender registry and, following a filing for a sexual harm prevention order by officers, will have to comply with every police request for the next seven years to check his technological devices.
The victim of the TK Maxx incident received a High Sheriff’s Award of £ 300 for her actions and both women read statements of victim impact in court.
Detective Constable Aaminah Motara, the officer responsible for the case, said: “The victims in these cases have shown incredible resilience during the lengthy investigation.
“I want to thank them for their courage to testify in court.
Upskirting is a new sex offense, but its impact can be long-lasting and should not be underestimated.
The effects can be very diverse and varied, from the initial sense of violation to long-term psychological problems that no one should experience.
‘If you think you have been the victim of a sex offense, don’t forget to give us a call as we are here to listen and investigate.
“Our officers are specially trained and we can support you to help you through the entire process.”
Judge Martin Picton said the verdict: “The damage you have done to your victims is clear and should leave you with deep shame for wronging them very much.
‘It’s hard to understand how anyone could behave like you. It was horrible behavior that still resonates with your victims almost two years later. ‘
Hawthorne was elected a Conservative city councilor in May 2016, but was expelled from the group after his arrest.
He remained as an independent councilor until his resignation in April 2020.
What is upskirting? And what is the law around the offense?
What is upskirting?
Upskirting is a new crime that applies to the invasive practice of taking a photo or video of someone’s clothing to see their genitals, buttocks, or underwear.
While the vast majority of known cases involve men targeting women, the tables can be turned.
Until April 12, 2019, when a new law went into effect, there was no specific violation of upskirting in England and Wales.
Offenders can now face up to two years in prison, the most serious of which is on the sex offender register.
What does the new law say?
The Voyeurism Act allows upskirting to be treated as a sex offense and ensures that the most serious offenders are entered on the sex offender registry.
It will record instances where the goal is to obtain sexual satisfaction or cause humiliation, fear or alarm.
This includes instances where perpetrators say images were taken just ‘for a laugh’ or when paparazzi are caught taking intrusive images.
What kind of punishment could a convicted upskirter receive?
A conviction at the magistrates’ court would result in imprisonment of up to one year and / or a fine.
A more serious crime, tried in the Crown Court, would result in imprisonment of up to two years.
Police can now arrest and charge people on suspicion of upskirting.
What about photos or images taken before the law took effect?
The law cannot be applied retroactively – meaning that images taken before April 12, 2019 cannot be considered specific upskirting offenses.
However, older images can still violate other laws, such as violating morality.