Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

March 13, 2014

A swift end to 'upskirting' a matter of common sense

Kudos to the state Legislature last week for moving fast to right a loophole in the “Peeping Tom” law.

The swift action came in response to the unanimous ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that perpetrators caught taking photos or video underneath a person’s clothes without their knowledge could not be prosecuted under current law.

In its ruling, the court said there is no law to protect women from degenerates who want to sneak photos or videos of women.

The case grew out of the 2010 arrest of an Andover man, 32-year-old Michael Robertson, for using his cellphone to take furtive “upskirt” photos and videos of two women sitting opposite him as they rode the MBTA Green Line on two separate occasions.

Robertson was charged under the state’s “Peeping Tom” law, which outlaws photos of nude or partially nude individuals taken without their knowledge in a place where they had a right to expect privacy.

The high court said the two women on the Green Line were not nude or partially nude because they were wearing skirts or dresses — even if they weren’t anything under those garments to shield them from prying cellphones.

Or as Justice Margot Botsford, writing for the court, memorably said: “No matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing.”

Her underwear ruling said further that the women had no right to privacy on the trolley.

“Because the MBTA is a public transit system operating in a public place and uses cameras,” Justice Botsford wrote, “the two alleged victims here were not in a place and circumstance where they reasonably would or could have had an expectation of privacy.”

We’re guessing Justice Botsford, an appointee of Gov. Deval Patrick, is seldom exposed to the huddled masses on the Green Line.

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