Were the two couples caught on camera appearing to have sex in Huddersfield town centre breaking the law?
And was it illegal to film them if they hadn’t consented to being filmed?
English law is a complicated tangle of different legislation – and the answer to the first question isn’t black and white.
So is sex in a public place illegal?
No – sex in a public place is not illegal in itself.
But that doesn’t mean you’ve got a green card to get it on in the middle of St George’s Square at rush hour!
If you have sex in a place where you could easily be spotted you could be prosecuted for ‘outraging public decency’, contrary to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
On the other hand if you were getting frisky in a dark alley at 3am and hardly anyone was about it’s unlikely you’d end up before a court.
If you’re an exhibitionist and your intention was to be seen you could, however, be arrested for ‘outraging public decency’ under the Public Order Act 1986.
But that’s not black and white either; what determines ‘exhibitionism’ is fairly subjective.
Don’t do it in a public toilet
The law is very clear on this. Sex in a public loo is illegal under section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and you’ll end up in a police cell if you get caught.
Is it illegal to film people having sex in a public place?
This is dealt with under section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act which covers voyeurism.
If the people you are filming have agreed to being filmed you are unlikely to be prosecuted.
However, if the people do not know they are being filmed you could be in bother.
Section 67 states that an offence of voyeurism has been committed if ‘he knows that the other person does not consent to being observed for his sexual gratification.’