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Sex Laws Info

Indecent Exposure


The offence known as “indecent exposure” under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 makes its a crime for a man to expose his genitals. Not only is the crime that precise but - for a conviction - the exposure must be intentional and the culprit must intend that some one will see “and be caused alarm or distress”. Although the maximum tariff on conviction is two years imprisonment, in practice the punishment is often non-custodial.

Outraging public decency is another crime. It is an offence for a person “in public” to commit “an act of such a lewd, obscene or disgusting nature as to amount to an outrage to public decency”. (It is illegal regardless of whether it tends “to deprave and corrupt” those who actually see it.) “In public” means that the conduct must occur in a place where there was a real possibility at the time that at least two members of the general public might see it, although not necessarily simultaneously. The offence is not limited to acts involving a sexual element. It has been applied, for example, to disinterring a corpse.

A case in point:
In summer 2007, two 21-year old women were arrested and charged with the crime of outraging public decency after they performed a deliberate “wardrobe malfunction”. Abbi-Louise Maple and Rachel Marchant lifted their tops and flashed their bare chests at a CCTV camera before collapsing in giggles on the beach at Worthing, West Sussex. The CCTV operator called the police and minutes later the two girls were arrested, interrogated and then charged. The offence carries a maximum sentence of six months prison or a £5,000 fine if tried in the magistrates’ court or worse if tried in the Crown Court. Miss Maple said: “There was nobody else around that we could see. The beach was empty, so we didn't think it would be a problem”. The case was eventually dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service after it said it was not in the public interest to proceed with the case.