URINATING on the street offends public decency – but is it a crime in Huddersfield?
Confusion surrounds the delicate issue of whether the act in itself is a criminal offence.
The police, Kirklees Council and council leader Mehboob Khan have all given different answers to the simple question: Is it an offence to urinate in public?
The matter has arisen after a Huddersfield businessman contacted the police to report a man urinating in full public view in Byram Court.
The incident happened at 9.45 on a weekday morning, as many people were walking to work or just arriving in town.
Police took details and the businessman was given a crime number, but was then told some time later by a police officer that urinating in public had been decriminalised, as it had been covered by a Kirklees byelaw which had since been repealed.
The Examiner set about trying to get to the bottom of the matter.
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Urinating in a public place is in contravention of a byelaw of the Local Government Act of 1972 and carries a fine of up to £500.”
But whether this Act is actually in force in Kirklees is in some doubt.
The police spokesman said that in reality, the offence was often accompanied by – in the case of a man – indecent exposure, which was covered by Section 5 of the Public Order Act. He did not say what would happen if a woman was caught urinating in a street in plain public view.
In addition, as offenders have often been drinking alcohol, urinating is often accompanied by rowdy behaviour or harassment, in which case the culprit could be charged with being drunk and disorderly.
He added that the event which triggered the controversy is currently still being investigated by the police.
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “We are currently unable to confirm the existence of a byelaw made under the 1972 Act and therefore can’t say whether it has been repealed.
“The legislation usually used is the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003.”
Such is the lack of clarity that Colne Valley councillor David Ridgway raised the issue at last Wednesday’s monthly meeting of Kirklees Council.
Clr Ridgway asked a number of questions, which were initially dealt with in a flippant manner by leader of the council Mehboob Khan.
However, Clr Ridgway persisted with his questions and eventually received a number of responses from Clr Khan.
The leader of the council appeared to throw even more confusion on the matter with his reply.
He said: “There is a general provision within Common Law which relates to decent behaviour in the public realm.
“There certainly isn’t any byelaw or actual general provision within the law which would prevent anyone from carrying out any indecent behaviour in public such as urinating or anything else, such as delivering a LibDem Focus.”
Clr Khan added that as far as he was aware, there are general laws covering decent behaviour and urinating in public is prohibited.
He was, however, unable to name the specific law.
He did add that to introduce a byelaw would cost in the region of £40,000 to £50,000.
The businessman who made the original complaint said: “The man has been identified and yet the police seem powerless to do anything.
“It is pretty outrageous, it’s like a Carry On film.”