NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 7, 2014

Our view: 'Upskirt' decision lacks common sense

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts offered some implicit advice on Wednesday to women who ride the trolley in Boston.

Better wear pants.

In a unanimous ruling, the court said there is no law to protect women from degenerates who want to take furtive “upskirt” photos of them as they ride the MBTA.

The case grew out of the arrest of an Andover man, 32-year-old Michael Robertson, in 2010 for using his cellphone to sneak photos and videos of two women sitting opposite him on the 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 wearing 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 is seldom exposed to the huddled masses on the Green Line.

But to say the women could not “reasonably” expect privacy for their private parts while on the T is absurd.

Name one reasonable person who, until the court weighed on Wednesday, would have said it’s OK to go fumbling under a woman’s clothing by means of a camera.

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