A new mum claims a 'creepy' man took pictures of her breastfeeding her nine-month-old daughter and – when she confronted him about it – refused to delete them.
Julia Cooper, 32, said she noticed the man staring at her while she breastfed her baby on a bench in Sale, Greater Manchester, despite her 'being discrete' and wearing a large coat.
The designer said the man was sitting at a nearby picnic table and attached a zoom lens onto his camera before snapping pictures of her and trying to get a close-up of 'what was going on', reports Manchester Evening News.
When she confronted him, Julia said he openly admitted to taking the intimate photographs… but said he would not delete them.
She then contacted Greater Manchester Police, but was informed that the man was technically not breaking the law as she was out in public.
The incident left her too uncomfortable to continue breastfeeding in public, but prompted her to launch a petition on Charge.org which has racked up more than 25,000 signatures.
In the petition, Julia is calling for a change in the law that would make the 'disturbing, intrusive act' illegal.
Julia, from Chorlton, said: "It felt horrible.
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"I was being discrete about feeding her and I think that's why he attached a zoom lens, because he wanted to get as close-up a shot as possible of what was going on.
"After feeding my daughter, I went over and asked him if he was taking photos of us.
"He confirmed he was and refused to delete the photos, and he said it was his right because we were in public.
"He didn't explain why he'd taken the pictures and I didn't think to ask. In a way, I didn't want to know.
"It was obviously a sinister reason. I would guess it was for sexual gratification. It was a cold April day, and I was wearing a big coat.
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"It was only when he saw me breastfeeding that he decided to get his camera out, so I'm guessing it was [for] some sort of pleasure.
"I went away, went home and felt really angry and disgusted."
"I do feel sad that [breastfeeding is] something that's been ruined for me.
"I've tried to do it a couple more times, but I feel like I'm really aware of who's around and if they look like the kind of person who'd take a photo of me.
"That's not something I should have to think about while feeding my daughter.
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"This has changed how I feel breastfeeding in public. I take a bottle out and feed her with a bottle.
"Before, I just thought breastfeeding in public was something normal and I'd expect maybe a glance from a passer-by, but since it happened, I've gradually stopped breastfeeding in public."
When Julia left the park, she called the police and claims she was told the man had acted within the law.
Julia said: "I spoke to Greater Manchester Police and they confirmed he had acted within the law. Even the man at the police control room said 'I don't agree with this, but it is legal at the moment'.
"They couldn't do anything about it.
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"I then got in touch with my MP Jeff Smith and his team have been great. They've taken it up and brought it up in parliament a week later."
Julia also contacted MP Stella Creasy about the incident, who said the same thing had happened to her on a train in Wimbledon.
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The two MPs are now tabling an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing [and Courts] Bill, which would make it illegal to take photos of women breastfeeding their babies without their consent.
"I'm really glad that someone positive is happening out of what happened to me," Julia said.
Greater Manchester Police said that members of the public do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no powers to stop them doing so.
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