Police action has often been triggered by public concern. Sites used exclusively by men - such as public toilets - have historically been policed differently to cruising and dogging sites, aided by a different set of legal rules. More information Policing PSEs - Metropolitan Police Service "Public sex is a historical phenomenon, with variances of behaviour occurring around the globe. It is not our role to act as moral arbiters; we must enforce the law proportionately, firmly, fairly and in an even-handed way. In the decades prior to the Sexual Offences Act , gay men rarely "came out". Chris Ashford, professor of law and society at Northumbria University is currently working on a book exploring the law's relationship with the public sex, entitled Public Sex and the Law: Cruising was one way that - albeit with a fairly high level of risk of persecution - men could meet other men in a way they could not in ordinary life.
Outdoor sex in the middle of a forest is clearly at the other end of the spectrum from sex on a crowded beach. The singer George Michael, famously arrested after an incident a Los Angeles public toilet, has said he has no shame about engaging in cruising. For those public sex environments outside of public lavatories, the common law and statute law is usually only concerned with those situations where a member of the public is likely to chance upon public sex and be alarmed or distressed by what they see. This is particularly the case for male and male sexual encounters," says Ashford. Police action has often been triggered by public concern. Despite the attention now paid to getting it right, the police will always have a difficult job on their hands balancing the rights of people to have sex with the rights of passers-by not to be shocked. The issue doesn't just affect gay people. A Freedom of Information request, submitted last year, revealed specific guidelines, published in by the Association of Chief Police Officers Acpo on the policing of sex in public. Definitive stats are difficult to come by, but anecdotally at least, the British do not seem to be that squeamish about outdoor sex, and it appears to be more commonplace than one might think. But police are certainly not turning a blind eye to public sex. The law that regulates sex in toilets section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act was originally stated in the Sexual Offences Act Offences that could be committed in a 'public sex environment' Outraging public decency contrary to common law Behaviour that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to other users contrary to the Public Order Act Offences of exposure - if the person exposes themselves to someone intending that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress Sex in a public toilet Section 71, Sexual Offences Act, The above applies to England and Wales although there are some similar provisions in Scotland and Northern Ireland It's a complicated issue. The very section of the act that effectively 'legalised' homosexuality also contained the provision that criminalised sex in public lavatories. Cruising was one way that - albeit with a fairly high level of risk of persecution - men could meet other men in a way they could not in ordinary life. There are, found Ashford, significant differences in the approach to policing public sex in different parts of the country. For centuries heterosexual couples have had sex in secluded spots, often referred to as "Lovers' Lanes", seeking privacy unavailable at home. But both can be interpreted as sex in public places. Dan Bunker, a gay activist who offers training to public bodies on LGBT equality and diversity, says that cruising and cottaging has long been a "huge part" of gay culture. In the decades prior to the Sexual Offences Act , gay men rarely "came out". Men were frequently arrested, prosecuted and often jailed. Now police across much of the UK take a softly-softly approach, writes Julie Bindel. It is not our role to act as moral arbiters; we must enforce the law proportionately, firmly, fairly and in an even-handed way. And a decade ago footballer Stan Collymore admitted to "dogging" - having sex in a public place watched by onlookers - in a Cannock Chase country park, having been spotted by tabloid journalists. It placed in the public consciousness a hitherto shadowy subculture. In general terms, the police now only tend to get involved when bystanders complain. In June, police warned people indulging in such activities at a beauty spot by the Menai Strait commonly used by walkers to stop off and stretch their legs. In a shift from the previous legislation and police practice, which focused only on sex between men in public toilets commonly known as "cottaging" the latest guidance makes reference to sex by a wider variety of people, and includes dogging, sex in parks, beaches, and beauty spots.
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