1. Security protective marking
1.1. Not protectively marked.
2. Summary of changes
2.1. The following changes have been made to this policy on 8 September 2010:
- This policy has been completely rewritten, following consultation and new Association of Chief Police Officer guidance.
2.2. This policy was scheduled for review in September 2012. The review for this policy is on hold pending the Kent Police Policy Restructure throughout 2013/14.
3.1. This policy applies to all officers and staff attending and dealing with such incidents outlined in paragraph 5.2.
4.1. The aim of this policy is to:
4.2. Fundamental to this is Kent’s responsibility to protect and uphold the human rights of all citizens and ensure our policing responses are legal, justifiable, necessary, accountable and proportionate and ensure that public safety is given primacy at all times.
5.1. The policy does not cover:
- Commercial sexual activity e.g. prostitution.
- Activity in saunas and similar establishments.
5.2. The policy does cover:
- Any open space, public or private that is habitually used for the purpose of engaging in consensual same sex and opposite sex, sexual activity;
- Sex in public toilets. It is acknowledged that legislation (section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003) deals with sexual activity in public toilets and there may well be a need to enforce the law in public toilets as with sexual activity in an open space. However, there may also be a pressing need to seek out a longer-term solution, which is citizen focused and therefore community based which enforcement alone cannot always achieve. It is for this reason that sexual activity in public toilets is included.
5.3. Public sex environments are complex environments and the police have a key role in ensuring that public safety is paramount. In managing public sex environments the police service must seek out and build relationships with partner agencies if we are to ensure we take the right course of action in policing them.
5.4. There is a great diversity in the people who visit public sex environments and it's not possible to generalise on the type of person most likely to visit a public sex environment. The presence of public sex environments can have an adverse impact on the quality of life of people using these locations for leisure pursuits. This can include the presence of unhygienic litter, witnessing sexual acts taking place and a restriction on the use of the open space for leisure purposes.
5.5. This policy does recognise that an arrest may be necessary, legitimate and proportionate to deal with the offences committed by users of public sex environments for sexual purposes. However, having recognised this, the policy supports the view that the use of enforcement alone is unlikely to be effective in dealing with the many problems associated with public sex environments. We need to fully understand the problems at each site and, by working alongside our partners we can develop and implement sustainable solutions together.
6.1. For the purpose of this policy a public sex environment is any open space, public or private that is habitually used for the purpose of engaging in consensual sexual activity. This definition includes those areas commonly referred to as ‘cruising grounds’ or ‘dogging grounds’ and in the case of sex in public toilets ‘cottages.’
6.2 Where hate crime is referred to in this guidance it relates to;
Any hate incident, which constitutes a criminal offence, perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hate. See policy M62 for more detail.
7. An overview of public sex environments
7.1. Identifying public sex environments
7.1.1. A large number of public sex environments are well known and established, however, other public sex environments will be less well known or temporary in nature and can include lay byes, car parks and other public spaces.
7.2. Legality of public sex environments
7.2.1. Public sex environments have no legal designation and the term is merely used to describe an area that is used by individuals for sexual activity. Therefore, there is no offence of being found in a public sex environment, nor do the police have any power to eject an individual from a public sex environment unless other legislation or regulations exist.
7.2.2. The existence of a public sex environments or ‘cottage’ does not grant the police additional powers. The use of existing legislation or policies must always be referred to such as stop and search, stop and account or being required to give name and address.
7.3. Offences within public sex environments
7.3.1. People who use public sex environments do not as a matter of course commit a criminal offence by being there. It is an individual’s behaviour that may constitute a criminal offence dependent on the circumstances and the complaint that may have been made.
7.3.2. It is a criminal offence for a person (male or female) to have sex in a public toilet, (Section 71, Sexual Offences Act, 2003). It is not against the law for;
7.3.3 The fact that a person is in a known public sex environment does not, in itself, give grounds for a police officer to stop that person and ask them to account for themselves. Nor does it give the police authority to ask a person to leave. The grounds for any such police action should be lawful, proportionate, intelligence led and accountable.
7.3.4 The fact that a user may have items that may be used during sexual activity in their possession is not to be seen as empowering a police officer to question them further about their presence within a public sex environment. This situation does not constitute a criminal offence and the right to privacy means that any action by the police which may follow needs to be necessary, legitimate and proportionate and intelligence led.
7.3.5. Offences that could be committed are;
However, this legislation only creates an offence of sexual activity in public toilets and not at any other location. It is important to recognise that this piece of legislation applies to anyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender. Also, previous offences of ‘gross indecency’, ‘buggery’, loitering with intent, soliciting and importuning have been repealed and therefore no longer constitute criminal offences.
7.3.6. Local byelaws or prohibitions
126.96.36.199 It should be recognised that under the Human Rights Act the following rights are conferred on individuals;
188.8.131.52. No restriction is placed on these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
184.108.40.206. In addition, when responding to a specific complaint of public sexual activity any response should be justifiable, proportionate, necessary, legal and accountable.
8. The policing of public sex environments
8.1. This policy recognises that our understanding of public sex environments has changed and as a consequence the approach to policing them needs to change accordingly. It is now recognised that;
- Previous methods of policing public sex environments have adversely affected the relationship between the police and communities.
- Previous methods of policing public sex environments have discouraged users from reporting crime to the police.
- In light of the above, serious offences are being committed against users of public sex environments that are going unreported e.g. serious assault, robbery etc. Victims need to have the confidence in the police service to report crimes committed in these circumstances.
- Criminals are committing offences within public sex environments knowing that the victims are unlikely to report them to the police.
- That unless research and analysis suggest otherwise, it should not be assumed that public sex environments are a same sex activity. It must be noted that most police forces consulted report dogging and cruising activity often taking place in the same locations.
- That public sex environments should be considered as part of local policing plans and the work of the Community Safety Partnerships and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships.
- Crime prevention and public safety should be a key priority for policing public sex environments.
- That consensual sexual activity can be upsetting and distressing for other people who witness it, and that any criminal offences should be investigated thoroughly.
9. Policing methodology
9.1. Identifying and profiling your public sex environment
9.1.1. Experience has shown that the successful policing of a public sex environment is based on thorough research and analysis from two key perspectives;
9.2. Conflicting user groups
9.2.1. We need to ensure that our approach is not seen as one which appears to condone any sexual activity but is focused on public safety and ensuring specific complaints are properly investigated.
9.2.2. In many cases research may indicate that a public sex environments will cater for different user groups without conflict, for example a public park may only become a public sex environment at night time when other user groups are not present. If such a scenario exists, even in the absence of complaint, then a focus on public safety should be our priority.
9.2.3. If conflict between user groups is identified then it is that conflict that should be managed. For example, if the conflict between users in a public park is during the day, then any enforcement action should focus on that problem at that time.
9.3. Geography of the public sex environment
9.3.1. In terms of ensuring public safety, a key part of the profiling should be the mapping of the public sex environment, identifying its geographic boundaries, entry and exit points and any approach routes and parking areas. This is important as victims are often targeted by offenders on the routes to and from public sex environments. This should include any parking areas for vehicles and areas within the public sex environment that may be used for meeting each other and those that are used for sexual activity. This information will be useful if police are required to provide an immediate response to any incident or crime.
9.4.1. Another key aspect to profiling is to produce a problem profile relating to the public sex environment based on reported crime, criminal and community intelligence and open source material e.g. media, local newsletters etc. This should include the public sex environment and its immediate environs as it has been known for victims to report crimes varying the location of the incident to areas just outside public sex environments to avoid being identified as a user. When developing research and analysis it is more advantageous to include all crimes and intelligence relating to the geographic area of the public sex environment and not to rely on flagged information such as hate crime. This recognises the point made earlier that public sex environments can no longer be associated with one community unless research and analysis provides that evidential base.
9.4.2. It also recognises that if users are from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that crimes may be reported without reference to the victim’s sexual orientation or without the victim indicating that the attack may have been motivated by homophobia or transphobia. Research should also identify the times and or/days when public sex environments are active.
9.5. Open source resources
9.5.1. There are a number of online resources that list public sex environments and can assist with profiling [please note they contain explicit content and nudity];
Please note: Unless your current role specifically requires this, accessing sites containing pornographic, sexual or otherwise offensive materials is strictly prohibited (see policy F11 ICT acceptable use).
9.6. Other resources
9.6.1. There are many organisations from the voluntary sector that are actively engaged in public sex environment localities providing safer sex support. Joint working with such organisations is encouraged as part of the day today policing of public sex environments.
9.7.1. When analysis is undertaken, particularly in relation to suspects committing offences against users within public sex environments, it is recommended that it is scoped beyond the Basic Command Unit (BCU) boundaries. Reports and intelligence have shown that offenders travel some distance to public sex environments and consequently relevant crime reports or intelligence information may be held outside the local policing area. In addition, a single public sex environment may span several police BCU boundaries.
10. Identifying the policing priorities
10.1 The profile will allow you to identify and prioritise the policing response. For example, you may have a public sex environment from which regular complaints are received about sexual activity in public so the key objective may be to respond to those complaints. This information will also influence our partnership working in order to bring about sustainable solutions.
10.2 Research and analysis may indicate that offenders are targeting users who then become victims of crime, the approach therefore may be focused on intelligence gathering or crime reduction.
10.3 It is also possible that both the above issues in relation to one public sex environment will occur and interventions will need to be planned accordingly.
10.4 It is essential, however, that any intervention is managed as part of an overall policing plan, together with partners, as indiscriminate policing activity can have a negative impact on trust and confidence in the police. Any plan should be subject to community consultation and advice.
11. Stage one: receipt of complaint of public sexual activity
11.1 This stage relates to a complaint about public sexual activity that does not require an immediate or high graded policing response as per policy M75. Any complaint that does require an immediate response should be dealt with in accordance with local force policy and procedures, and any outcome included within any profile of the public sex environment.
11.2 Following receipt of a complaint, the information will be passed to the local Community Safety Unit, who shall have the responsibility to task the complaint and ensure a record is created within the joint problem solving database.
11.3 Within the police service, responsibility and accountability for initial processing of a complaint from a member of the public should rest with the neighbourhood policing team Inspector.
11.4 In all instances it is considered to be good practice for the complainant to be visited and asked to provide a statement outlining the activity complained about. This will ensure that any future police activity is founded on a firm basis and justified should this be questioned. It will also support the neighbourhood policing team Inspector to make a reasoned judgement on the strength of the complaint.
11.5 The statement will assist in revealing the exact nature of the complaint, for example, does it relate to actual observed behaviour or is it hearsay, are there problems with car parking or litter. The statement will also assist in highlighting if the motive of the complainant is influenced by any prejudices.
11.6 The Inspector should carry out an initial assessment of the validity of the complaint and apprise the appropriate member of the BCU senior management team where appropriate. BCUs should have in place a system to allow a strategic decision and review, in concert with their community partners and advisors. Stage 1 should conclude with a decision as to whether to proceed with any action regarding the complaint.
12. Stage two: scanning and analysis
12.1 If further action is required then the next stage should focus on scanning and analysis.
12.2 Time spent on scanning and analysis will help ensure;
12.3 It is important to keep the complainant informed of what is being done to examine and address the concerns raised.
12.4 The scanning and analysis should identify whether the complaint relates to an isolated incident or is symptomatic of a wider community problem. As with other areas of policing where we receive information from the public, not every complaint will result in a response, it should however be added to the profile of the public sex environment. It might be decided that whilst there is a problem, on strategic grounds it would be inappropriate to take any action. This decision should be taken in consultation with community partners. The decisions and grounds should be recorded.
12.5 At the end of this stage a decision should have been made as to whether any police action should be taken and what the outcome of any police action should be. Any police action [other than a complaint that requires an immediate response - see policy M75] should follow the stepped response in Stage 3.
13. Stage three: ‘four’ stepped response
13.1 Step one – Inform and dissuade
At the end of this step the problem should be reviewed and if necessary move to step 2.
For all stages full regard should be taken of policy M118 Critical incident management.
13.2 Step two – Situational crime and disorder prevention measures
13.2.1. The aim of this step is opportunity reduction and the following options could be amongst those considered;
- Target removal – e.g. closure of a facility.
- Access control – e.g. revised opening times.
- Capable guardians – e.g. park attendants or patrols, wardens to deter unacceptable behaviour [intervention protocols and training should be considered].
- Landscaping and cutting back of shrubbery.
- Overt surveillance e.g.: non police CCTV schemes.
- Staff vigilance and guidance.
- Environmental design [long term].
13.2.2. When considering options at this step, thought should be given to displacement and what other locations may become prone to use as public sex environments. It is also recognised that options within this step may be unachievable as they lay outside the remit of the police and may incur costs that owners of facilities or spaces may be unwilling to bear. It may be necessary in those circumstances to move to step three.
13.3 Step three – High visibility preventative patrolling
13.3.1. The purpose of this step is to deter users from engaging in public sexual activity at the time or location that has given rise to the complaint. There should be a planned policing response and the following should be considered;
- Use of local neighbourhood police officers and community support officers.
- Risk assessment to be conducted before deployment.
- First line direct supervision of the operation.
- Briefings for all officers with particular reference to Section 8 of the guidance as to the law relating to public sex environments.
- Use of specialist liaison officers where appropriate.
- Participation of community partners.
- Officers should be given clear advice as to what action should be taken should they witness offences being committed including their options for prosecution. Offenders arrested or reported should be dealt with in accordance with the force case disposal policy.
- Officers to be reminded of their lawful powers under current legislation.
13.3.2. At the conclusion of this step the situation should be reviewed in consultation with community partners. It should be remembered that the purpose of the steps to this point are to deal with the issues at the centre of the complaint. If, however, the first three steps have been unsuccessful in resolving the complaint the enforcement action detailed below can be considered.
13.4 Step four – Enforcement action
13.4.1. This should only be used as a last resort and only when steps one to three have been reviewed and considered unsuccessful at resolving the problem. Enforcement action can have a negative impact on trust and confidence between the police and the community and should always be viewed within the context of wider policing objectives. For example, if enforcement action is likely to reduce the number of victims coming forward to the police then these impacts should be considered.
13.4.2. Enforcement should only be considered where there is evidence of offences being committed and those committing them are ignoring advice and warnings at steps one to three. Enforcement should only be considered where there continues to be specific and evidenced complaints and the action should target the location and times relevant to the complaints. An example may be where a location is subject of continual complaint about dogging and voyeurism and warnings have been ignored. Preventative patrolling has identified an ongoing problem with a few persistent offenders who have refused to stop their activities despite being warned that they may face prosecution. Enforcement action may then be the only means available to deal with the matter. Enforcement action may not be appropriate or proportionate for isolated complaints of public sexual activity.
13.4.3. Where enforcement is considered the only option then the following should apply;
14. Stage four – Assess
14.1. It is essential that the whole process is monitored and evaluated. Both the police and their partners, and the community need to know what has been achieved i.e. has the problem been resolved and the outcome achieved.
14.2. Consult with Independent Advisory Group (IAG) to improve learning and to examine outcomes across all strands of diversity.
14.3. A full debrief needs to be undertaken involving the police and community group and partners to identify any learning. This should be used to update the public sex environment profile locally and consideration given for it submission to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) portfolio group for inclusion as a case study.
14.4. All documentation created in the course of the investigation will be retained for a period of three years commencing at the end of police intervention. The upkeep of documents whilst active shall be the responsibility for the Community Inspector. Archiving and retention post investigation shall be the responsibility of the BCU Business Manager.
15. Managing and responding to crime within public sex environments
15.1. Evidence of under-reporting of crime
15.1.1 It is generally accepted that there is an underreporting of crime that occurs within public sex environments. Underreporting by its nature is difficult to establish, especially in relation to that committed within public sex environments. However various surveys and reports in police areas consistently show that crime on public sex environments is underreported. In terms of crime type it is suggested robbery and assault appear most prevalent.
15.1.2 Whilst this guidance outlines recommendations for dealing with consensual sexual activity in public, it has to be recognised that non-consensual sexual activity can occur within public sex environments and for similar reasons is not reported due to the fear of being prosecuted for other offences.
15.1.3 With regards to LGBT communities, there is a general underreporting of all crime regardless of venue and supported by a wealth of credible surveys. Sigma Research conduct an national annual survey of gay men which in 2005 included a question which asked whether the respondent had been victim of assault due to their sexual orientation and whether it was reported to the police. Of 14,477 respondents within England, 8.2% stated that they had been subject of an assault of whom 63% did not report it to the police [both Wales and Northern Ireland had non reporting rates of 54% and 64% respectively].
15.1.4 There is no known research to ascertain the impact on reporting of crimes at dogging sites.
15.2. Responding to the National Intelligence Model (NIM) Intelligence requirement
15.2.2 When developing any assessment under the auspices of NIM, public sex environments should be considered as a source of information particularly in relation to robbery. Any intelligence requirement in relation to robbery should consider information and intelligence gathering within public sex environments.
15.2.3 Additionally any NIM intelligence requirement in relation to hate crime should include public sex environments as a source of information and intelligence as crime within those environments will often be motivated by homophobia on the part of the perpetrator regardless of the sexual orientation of the victim.
15.2.4 It is recommended that if there is a public sex environment within a BCU then regardless of the levels of reported incidents and crime, a community consultation and engagement strategy is developed with key partners and users to build trust and confidence and increase the reporting of crime and intelligence. The consultation strategy should form part of an overarching communication and engagement strategy.
15.3. Engaging with public sex environment users
15.3.1 Any engagement activity should be undertaken after a profile has been developed of the public sex environment as outlined above. It is essential that key community partners are involved in developing any engagement plan at this stage so they are clear of the policing objectives. Where appropriate, advice or assistance should be sought from the Neighbourhood Policing teams.
15.3.2 The legacy of the policing of public sex environments is such, that regardless of worthy intentions policing activity may still be interpreted as one of enforcement, it is therefore important that partner agencies and community representatives are supportive of any policing approach. Any policing approach needs to be sensitive, clearly identifying the need for public safety and reassurance, but also the responsibilities of users. A thorough profile will provide the basis for any engagement activity.
15.3.3 We need to be clear that when the police service engages with public sex environment users our focus must be on public safety, reassurance, improving crime reporting and intelligence gathering. We also need to make it clear that specific complaints of sexual activity in public will be thoroughly investigated.
15.4. Identifying key partners
15.4.1 The public sex environment profile should have identified any key communities with whom to engage and consideration should be given to local consultative or advisory groups in terms of getting broad support for any engagement activity. Consideration should also be given to involving any local groups who have geographic interest in the public sex environment, for example adjacent resident associations or other identifiable non public sex environment user groups.
15.4.2 If the profile has identified that the public sex environment users are of the LGBT community, then local specialised LGBT groups or forums should be included. A considerable amount of outreach work is undertaken by charities, voluntary groups and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) within public sex environments that promote safe sex and sexual health. By making public sex environments safer environments through appropriate policing and partnership working the police can support the work of these agencies.
15.5. Managing press interest
15.5.1 Police activity within public sex environments can attract press interest from all media organisations, especially those that are aiming at LGBT audiences and communities. It is recommended that suitable press releases be agreed with partners prior to any engagement activity so that a swift, clear and consistent response can be given to any press enquiries. The benefit of early partner involvement is that there is an understanding of police motives and agreement of approach. It should also be noted that there is considerable LGBT community concern when public sex environments are publicised in the media, as there is a fear that this could lead to an increase in homophobic incidents and crime against people who are or are perceived to be from an LGBT community. The general principle should be that with press releases there is no reference to the LGBT community or to identifying the area as a public sex environment, unless it is absolutely essential for operational reasons. In most cases this type of publicity and increase the size of problem and impact on police resources.
16. Engagement methodologies
16.1 Partnership working
16.1.1 As mentioned earlier it is common for external groups and organisations to do outreach work with public sex environment users. Whilst the outreach work tends to focus on health education and safer sex, there are examples of joint patrols between community wardens and police. The benefits of this type of approach are that public sex environment users are additionally reassured by the presence of the outreach worker with whom they often know and trust.
16.1.2 The officer also benefits from the local knowledge of the outreach worker, and conversely the worker is reassured by the presence of the police from a personal safety perspective.
16.1.3 However, it should be noted that some voluntary groups and organisations may be reluctant to be seen to be working too overtly with the police as this can be misinterpreted by users and lead to a loss of trust and confidence between users and that organisation. This should not be interpreted as a lack of co-operation but a legacy of the way such environments were policed.
16.1.4 PCTs often use ASTOR ( Aims, Settings, Targets, Objectives and Rationale proformas) guidance documents for work within public sex environments, which may be of use when profiling or developing partnership working.
16.1.5 When a public sex environment report involves same-sex activity, consultation with local police LGB support networks and the Gay Police Association should be considered, primarily to assist with community contacts where this is necessary and to ensure proportionality of police involvement
16.1.6 Help facility: Kent LGBT action and support groups.
16.2. Direct engagement
16.2.1 There are examples of successful direct engagement between police and public sex environment users. Managed as intelligence gathering operations using the formal tasking process, plain clothed officers are directed to patrol public sex environments and engage with users with a direction to use their discretion if they observe public sexual activity. The purpose of the operations are to identify concerns of users and encourage the reporting of crime and intelligence provision either directly or using third party reporting facilities.
17. Managing enforcement and public safety
17.1. Police engagement may require a degree of enforcement activity and reassurance when there is a conflict between user groups.
17.2. High visibility police patrols are considered to be a tested approach to community reassurance. Within the public sex environment, and due to the legacy of police activity outlined previously, such patrols can often be misinterpreted by users as police enforcement. It is worth noting that whilst such an approach may have been agreed with key partners, they will not necessarily be public sex environment users who may be unaware of the approach.
17.3. It is therefore recommended that one of the previous methodologies be adopted first until public sex environment users are accustomed to a police presence within the public sex environment. Such an approach was used within the Rose Garden at Hyde Park, however now with trust established between users and the police, high visibility police patrols are the norm.
18. Young and vulnerable persons
18.1. Where an incident involves only young persons (under 16, the age of sexual consent) and/or other vulnerable people any incident will be dealt with in accordance with this policy and must take into account the age and/or vulnerability of the persons involved.
18.2. Kent police will not disclose a person’s self-identified sexual orientation or gender status to any other person, including a member of her/his family without their informed consent. (This includes a young person).
18.3. Young people and adults. Where a public sex environment incident is under investigation and one of the parties engaged in the sexual behaviour is a young and /or vulnerable person whilst the other is not, then the young and/or vulnerable person shall, in the first instance be treated as a victim.
20. Appendices (please note the first two appendices are restricted and therefore can not be viewed on the Kent Police website)
20.1. Holland Park case study
20.2. Hampshire Constabulary case study
21. Equality impact assessment
21.1. This policy has been assessed with regard to its relevance to race and diversity equality. As a result of this assessment the policy has been graded as having a high potential impact.
21.2. Attached is the latest equality impact assessment that forms part of the policy review process.
|Policy reference:||M78 Managing Public Sex Environments|
|Policy owner:||Chief Superintendent Partnerships and Crime Reduction|
|Contact point:||Policy Unit, 01622 654662|
|Date last reviewed:||08 September 2010|
|Document last saved:||15 October 2013