Sunday, July 17, 2005

Disappointingly Prosaic

The rolling nineteenth-century prose of the Vagrancy Act 1824 made it an offence:-

to "willfully, openly, lewdly and obscenely expose the person with intent to insult any female". In a training handout that I was given years ago there was an asterisk against the word 'person' and a footnote that for the purpose of the Act 'person' meant 'penis'

This is the main offence committed by "flashers" - but note the necessity for there to be an intention to insult a female. This offence did not have to be committed in a public place. It was triable only by magistrates and carried three months imprisonment.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 replaces these provisions with:-

66 Exposure
(1) A person commits an offence if-
(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable-
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

Not only has the lovely old statute that we all knew by heart been replaced by a drab piece of Parliamentary draftsmanship, but the offence may now be sent to the Crown Court. In the lower court the penalty has doubled, and the maximum penalty has increased eightfold.

It won't make a ha'porth of difference though, since your stereotypical flasher is not one to make a fine calculation of the penalties before hauling out his person - oh, sorry, I meant penis.

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