ACPO Lead Says 'Ignore Cottaging'
Critics claim the DCC's remarks may cause an explosion in cases of open-air sex. Shadow Home Secretary said, 'This is unacceptable'...
Britain's police were told last night to turn a blind eye to the activities of cottagers. Deputy Chief Constable Michael Cunningham caused outrage as he advised cops to walk on by if they see adults cottaging in parks. The rules — which could become national guidelines — would have brought a let-off for pop star George Michael, who was fined £500 for “lewd conduct” in a public loo in 1998. Critics claimed Mr Cunningham’s remarks would trigger an explosion in cases of open-air sex. Tories said the guidance would cause dismay for families living near parks plagued by sex pests and perverts. Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: “This is unacceptable. “The law is the law and there should be no exceptions.”
In his new guidance, Mr Cunningham told officers to ignore dogging — where strangers meet in public for sex — as well as cruising and cottaging, when gay men meet in parks and loos. He warned that arresting offenders would alienate the gay community. Mr Cunningham — the lead at the Association of Chief Police Officers on gay, lesbian, bisexual and sex-swap issues — said it was not the role of officers to act as “moral arbiter”. And he warned police officers to avoid a “knee-jerk reaction” when responding to complaints.
Arrests should only be made as a last resort, he says. Instead, he said officers should study specialist sex websites — to see what is taking place in local parks, toilets and car parks. Mr Cunningham, Lancashire’s deputy top cop, told officers to ease off on open-air sex addicts in a new 21-page rulebook. He advised: “Our role is to ensure that any complaints are dealt with fairly and professionally and that where individuals are engaged in lawful activity they may do so safely.”
Mr Cunningham said heavy-handed responses to public sex spots had alienated the gay community. The guidebook is being considered by a committee of top cops before it is put in place across England and Wales. He stressed it is not illegal to visit a dogging or cottaging site, but some behaviour may be criminal. He said officers must consider measures such as closing the area, putting up lighting, spy cameras, or regular patrols.
Mr Cunningham said public sex can affect legitimate users, with lewd sights and unhygienic litter, but that arresting those responsible was not a long-term solution. He added: “Suicide and self-harm by persons who may have been arrested, charged or come into contact with the police in such a situation has happened in various parts of the country.”
An ACPO spokesman said: “This document has been put forward as a proposal. It is not complete.”
I can see the point of much of this but it is the basic principle that disturbs me. The DCC says that officers should walk on by. But he also says that arrests should only be made in extreme circumstances. How will a policeman see any extreme circumstances if walking by with gazed averted? This recommendation, allied with pressures on short-staffed police, will very soon result in cottaging sites becoming no-go areas. Open-air sex (dogging) is by it's very nature illegal. Cottaging less so as it takes place in the lavatory. Most of these are easily recognised; they are the ones with holes in the partition at a particular height. I do not see it as a duty of the police to devise long-term solutions; these are the responsibility of parliament directed by democracy. I do not know but I estimate that a poll asking if we wish to legalise couples or same-sex partners doing their thing in public would end that practice pretty soon. Mind you, the same situation arises in capital punishment. The populace want it but MPs deny it every time.
I like the suggestion " officers should study specialist sex websites — to see what is taking place in local parks, toilets and car parks." Visiting pornographic web-sites has landed many civilians in court where their claim they went there out of curiosity means nothing. There is also the comment " arresting offenders would alienate the gay community." Well, ain't that a shame. Prosecuting speeding motorists alienates drivers and there are still (just about) more of them than there are Gays.
It pains me but I shall refrain on the bit about 'knee-jerk reactions' in the context of sex.