Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Wednesday that a man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of women riding the Boston subway did not violate state law because the women were not nude or partially nude.
The Supreme Judicial Court overruled a lower court that had upheld charges against Michael Robertson, who was arrested in August 2010 by transit police who set up a sting after getting reports that he was using his cellphone to take photos and video up female riders’ skirts and dresses.
The ruling immediately prompted top Beacon Hill lawmakers to pledge to update state law.
Existing so-called Peeping Tom laws protect people from being photographed in dressing rooms and bathrooms when nude or partially nude, but the way the law is written, it does not protect clothed people in public areas, the court said.
Robertson, 32, of Andover, was facing more than two years in jail had he been convicted. He could not immediately be reached for comment by the Boston Herald, but the SJC’s decision sparked calls for updating the law.
Senate President Therese Murray said she was “stunned and disappointed” with the court ruling. She said the Senate will respond quickly.
“We have fought too hard and too long for women’s rights to take the step backward,” Murray said in a statement. “I am in disbelief that the courts would come to this kind of decision and outraged at what it means for women’s privacy and public safety.”
Gina Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said such photos are a serious invasion of privacy. She said the law needs to catch up to technology.
“It really is a form of sexual harassment. It’s a violation for the person who is unknowingly getting their body photographed,” she said. “People wear clothing for a reason and having someone violate that privacy is a real problem.”
“We believed that the statute criminalized upskirt photography, but since the SJC found otherwise we are urging legislators to act with all due haste in rewriting this statute in protecting commuters’ privacy,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley told the Herald. “Everyone — man or woman — should have a right to privacy beneath their own clothes.”
Read more: Fox News
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