Trigger Warning: Please note this piece includes discussion of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
After five long years of fighting for justice, Emily Hunt is finally victorious. In 2015, Hunt woke up naked and confused in a hotel room with a complete stranger — Christopher Killick. She reports having no recollection of meeting the man and no memory of how she ended up in a London hotel room with him. Killick was initially arrested on suspicion of rape but the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. This was already devastating for Hunt, but a year later she would receive yet another blow — Killick had recorded a 62-second video of her unconscious and naked.
Hunt immediately filed a separate police report, hoping Killick would be charged with voyeurism. Killick admitted he did not have consent to film the 62-second video of a naked Hunt and that he had done so “to satisfy” himself, He also acknowledged that it may have been “morally wrong" to do so. Despite this, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not charge him. What he had done was not considered illegal as the CPS maintained that, since he had not charged with sexual assault, the entire encounter, including the illicit video, was deemed consensual in the eyes of the law. The 2003 Sexual Offenses Act defines voyeurism as observing someone doing a “private act” without consent. CPS asserted that since Hunt had consented to be viewed naked, she had therefore also consented to being filmed naked.
Hunt and her supporters did not accept this as they knew the law was wrong. Fortunately for her, and for victims all across the country, a landmark ruling offered a solution. In January 2020, judges presiding over Richards, R. v England and Wales Court of Appeals ruled that filming a partner during sex without consent is illegal and is an act of voyeurism. Subsequent to this ruling, Killick was finally arrested for voyeurism in May 2020 and sentenced in August of the same year.
The road to this victory was long and tumultuous for Emily Hunt. Not only did she have to fight for justice but she also had to fight to be taken seriously by the CPS. The CPS told Hunt on six separate occasions that what she had endured was not illegal and she was therefore not entitled to justice. Hunt has expressed that she felt prosecutors turned their backs on her when she needed them the most. She ultimately turned to the Center for Women’s Justice for assistance in her case and engaged in Internet crowdfunding to push for a judicial review of her case. The onus was on her — the victim — to pressure law enforcement agencies into pursuing justice. This reveals fundamental flaws of the United Kingdom’s court system; the severity of sexual offences is not reflected in the law.
It is shocking to know that filming a sexual partner without consent was considered legal until just last year. It seems as though the 62-second non-consensual video of Hunt was not even considered particularly jarring or noteworthy to law enforcement officials. Moreover, although Killick had turned the video over to law enforcement during the initial investigation, they failed to inform Hunt about its existence for a year. The urgency of the situation was clearly not conveyed through the actions of law enforcement.
Hunt was left constantly fighting for the justice she deserved and failed to receive due support from law enforcement. A spokesperson for CPS stated:
“We recognise the delays in bringing this case to court have had a lasting impact on the victim. This is a complex area of law, which was clarified for the first time in the Court of Appeal this year. In light of that significant ruling, the CPS reviewed all the evidence in this case and authorised a charge of voyeurism”.
While it is important that CPS acknowledged their shortcomings in prosecuting sexual offences, it does not excuse that Hunt had to wait five years for justice and that she was made to fight her case without sufficient support. The statement is, of course, correct to highlight that “this [sexual offences] is a complex area of law”, but the complexity of the matter does not excuse inaction. These complex issues must be handled with firmness and swiftness. If there are gaps in the law, as there clearly were in the case of voyeurism, they must be dealt with as soon as they are encountered. The judge presiding over the sentencing of Killick for his voyeurism charge highlighted the severity of Killick’s actions by stating in court:
“The facts of this case are shocking. You prioritised your own desires without any real thought of how this might affect the victim. You saw an opportunity for personal sexual gratification and took it”.
The acknowledgment of the heinous nature of Killick’s crime is crucial in this case as it shows that the law was terribly wrong and failed Hunt for five long years. The justice system, fortunately, appears to be moving in the right direction in regards to the prosecution of sexual crimes, albeit quite slowly. Hopefully, this case will prove to be a turning point in the justice system of the United Kingdom and set a precedent for more thorough investigation and prosecution of sexually based crimes.