“Everyone 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
(a) 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;
(b) 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 an activity; or
(c) the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.”
So, if you are caught secretly filming another person without their knowledge, in a place where they can expect privacy, and it’s done for sexual purposes, you may be charged with voyeurism.
Note that voyeurism always involves observing someone where he or she could be seen naked or engaging in sexual activity.
Voyeurism charges have become more common in recent years for reasons already mentioned.
Some people who are guilty of voyeurism are unaware that they are committing a crime, or they may be filming for innocent purposes but their actions may be construed differently.
Therefore, despite the technology apparently making it easier to prove the crime of voyeurism (filming rather than simply observing and being caught “in the act” like a Pepping Tom), cases can still be complex.
Some relatively common examples where voyeurism charges are filed against a person include:
A person secretly filming a next-door neighbour in the shower
Photographing a housemate or roommate in their bedroom
Making a peephole to observe someone getting changed in their bedroom
Using a hidden camera in the Ladies’ area of public bathrooms
What are the penalties for voyeurism in Ottawa?
In addition to the potential damage to your reputation and to relationships, a conviction for voyeurism may result in:
A prison sentence of up to five years (in the case of an indictment)
A prison sentence up to six months (in a summary prosecution)
Probation for up to three years
A fine of up to $5,000
It is treated as a “hybrid” offence, which means that it can proceed as a summary charge or an indictable charge.
Aggravating factors like the age of the alleged victim or abusing a position of trust will also be considered when prosecuting and sentencing.