HC Deb 19 December 2003 vol 416 cc14-5W
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on(a) offences for which sexual activity in public lavatories may be prosecuted and (b) the suitability of those offences for dealing with such behaviour. [143478]

Paul Goggins

Sexual activity in public lavatories will be covered by a specific new offence in section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Persons engaging in such activity may also commit the existing common law offence of outraging public decency or an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. The Government believe that sexual activity in public lavatories is unacceptable and the new offence will cover any activity thata reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person's purpose, consider to be sexual".

The maximum penalty will be six months imprisonment, or a level five fine, or both.

The new offence will not require that someone should be caused "alarm, distress, or offence" by the activity, which is a requirement of section 5 of the Public Order Act. Similarly, the common law offence contains a requirement that the conduct must be lewd, obscene or disgusting. While it is a requirement that it should not be inordinate, the common law offence does not have a maximum penalty and so could be used to prosecute more serious cases where the conduct is particularly unacceptable. This offence has been made triable summarily, as well on indictment, by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which should give greater flexibility in its use.

Forward to