Voyeurism is loosely defined as deriving pleasure from observing people while they engage in private activities, without their consent. An example would be a “peeping Tom” who peers through a woman’s window as she undresses before getting in bed each night. Generally speaking, the voyeur observes people who are naked, undressing, or engaging in sexual activities.
True voyeurism is a criminal offence in Canada. However, in order for the act to be true voyeurism, the person or people being watched must not know they are being watched. Simply having voyeuristic desires isn’t a crime, as for most people, this desire remains a fantasy. Nor is it a crime to engage in role-playing voyeurism. But actually spying on someone while they engage in private activity is an offence, and being charged with this offence can lead to jail time, fines, a permanent criminal record, and possible inclusion on the National Sex Offender Registry depending on the circumstances of the case.
While voyeurism as a fantasy is quite common, voyeuristic urges that become so distressing they lead to criminal acts may be a sign of a paraphilic disorder known as a voyeuristic disorder. When such a disorder involves children or unconsenting adults, the penalties can be severe.
Under Section 787 of the Criminal Code, a person convicted of voyeurism can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and have to pay a fine of up to $2,000. The length of the sentence and amount of fines will be based on whether the crime is charged as a summary offence or is indictable, which will depend largely on the circumstances of the offence. For example, did the offender only observe visually, or did they record what they observed on their cell phone? Other factors, including the number of victims involved and their ages, also come into play.
According to Canada’s Criminal Code, the offence of voyeurism is explained as follows:
Every one commits an offence who, surreptitiously, observes—including by mechanical or electronic means—or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, if:
- the person is in a place in which a person can reasonably be expected to be nude, to expose his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or to be engaged in explicit sexual activity;
- the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity, and the observation or recording is done for the purpose of observing or recording a person in such a state or engaged in such activity;
- the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.
Types of Voyeurism
Due to the fact that voyeurism is a fairly common sexual fantasy, especially among men, there is a seemingly endless library of voyeurism pornography involving consenting adults on the internet. Voyeurs-at-heart can get legal pleasure by visiting these websites, nude beaches, voyeuristic sex clubs, and other venues that allow and encourage consensual voyeurism. Many of these places are frequented by voyeurs and exhibitionists alike. Exhibitionists are people who derive pleasure from exposing themselves to others. The opposite of voyeurism, exhibitionism can also be a criminal offence, unless the exhibitionism remains a fantasy or the exhibitionist only exposes himself/herself to someone with consent, such as in the aforementioned sex clubs or at nude beaches. Walking down the street and exposing one’s genitals to unsuspecting passers-by, however, is decidedly not legal.
Whether or not a charge of voyeurism will lead to a criminal conviction or the need to be listed on the sex offender registry will depend largely on the type of voyeuristic activity in question. For example, someone who only observes his female neighbour as she undresses will likely receive a summary offence with minimal penalties, or even a discharge or complete withdrawal of charges. However, someone who records and distributes recordings of the voyeuristic activity, observes or records children who are naked or undressing, or observes or records an illegal act, such as rape, may have to be registered as a sex offender. Furthermore, a voyeur who observes and doesn’t report illegal activity, such as rape, child molestation, or child pornography, can face additional charges for failure to report these crimes.
Contact Vilkhov Law Today
If you have been charged with voyeurism, the skilled legal team at Vilkhov Law can help. For a charge of voyeurism to result in a conviction, the Crown Attorney must prove that the offender knowingly observed or recorded the victim without their consent and that the intent was of a sexual nature. While it is illegal to take pictures or videos of someone without their knowledge and consent, it does not constitute criminal voyeurism if the recording is not of a sexual nature. An experienced sexual assault lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of your case, gather relevant evidence, and position you for the most favourable outcome possible. If you have been charged with voyeurism or any other sex crime, it is critical to seek immediate legal counsel. Don’t go through this difficult process alone. Contact Vilkhov Law today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.