The local press in Reading are frothing at the mouth this week. According to ‘Get Reading’ a lay-by has become the centre for controversial public sex activity. The website reports that: ‘One businessman, who pulled into the parking area to make a phone call on Tuesday, said he saw several men wander off into the woods in quick succession.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
“As I was making my call, I noticed a lot of strange men park up and go in and out of the woods.
“They were glancing around to see if anyone was going to join them.
“The next thing you know, another one showed up and followed them in there. Then another pair arrived and did the same. A short time later they would reappear one by one.
“I was only there for 15 minutes, but I lost count of the number of blokes who disappeared off into the woods. Most were in their 40s and 50s. It’s obviously a hotspot for cottaging – no doubt about it.
“Even a blind man’s dog could tell you what they were up to.”’
I fine the comment from the Police particularly of interest. The website reports that ‘neighbourhood specialist officer PC Matthew Allen said: “In the past I have received reports of suspicious behaviour in this area, but as far as I’m aware no criminal offences have been reported.
“In the last public meeting for Sulham and Tidmarsh residents the issue was not raised, so I don’t believe it is a major problem.
“The area is patrolled regularly and if anyone is found to be committing an offence they may face arrest.”’
OK, so we have a re-assertion (as is commonly done) that the police will be RESPONDING to complaints rather than ANTICIPATING them. We also have the Police stating the area IS PATROLLED. Why is this the case? When are they patrolling. A serious journalist would have asked those questions rather than allow themselves to be consumed by this rabid-like moral panic. Finally the website states: ‘Cottagers face a charge of gross public indecency if caught by police, but many users of the website claim the risk of getting caught is part of the thrill.’
So we have another example of journalists searching cruising and cottaging websites and then irresponsibly publishing details which can lead to hate crime and homophobic attacks. We also have journalists wrongly stating the law. Sorry to spoil the parity guys but the Sexual Offences Act 2003 repealed the gross indecency laws. Cruisers can not be charged with that offence because it does not exist. It’s also worth re-stating that the 2003 Act largely legalises public sex in many situations. The scene described in this report would in my view be legal and no offences would be committed. That being the case, what on earth are the police doing spending their time and resource patrolling this area? Of course, given the increased chance of hate crime after this report they may now need to patrol the area in order to protect the men engaging in these acts.