Is public sex illegal in the UK? How nudity and decency laws work and what you should do if you get caught

ROMPING in a public place appears to be more popular than ever but it could mean your collar is felt by the strong arm of the law rather than a lover.

Whether lovers do it in public because they can't at home, enjoy the thrill of maybe getting caught or even if they just get carried away by the moment, they should be aware that nookie in the open air can land them in trouble.

Is it illegal to have public sex in the UK?

The issue is complicated.

There are a number of laws that could result in an arrest, such as outraging public decency contrary to common law, behaviour that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to other users contrary to the Public Order Act 1986, offences of exposure, and sex in a public toilet.

However, police have adopted a more softly-softly approach in recent years and will probably only get involved if members of the public complain.

In 2009 the Association of Chief Police Officers released specific guidelines for policing "Public Sex Environments".

The document said: "The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)… is committed to making PSEs safer for both users and those who happen upon them when going about their daily business."

Chris Ashford, professor of law and society at Northumbria University, told the BBC that police have to strike a balance between policing isolated locations where bystanders might stumble across public sex with responding to public concerns.

As a rule of thumb, you're probably fine in an extremely secluded location, but expect to have your collar felt if you get busy on a crowded beach.

What are the laws that make public sex a crime?

Outraging public decency is committing an act of such a lewd character as to outrage public decency (the nature of the act has to be proved before the offence can be established), and the act must have taken place in public and could have been seen by two or more people.

Under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, a person is guilty of an offence if they use threatening (or abusive) words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 says a person commits an offence if they intentionally exposes their genitals and intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.

The same act defines sexual activity in a public lavatory as a crime. Punishments vary but must offences are punished with fines.

What should you do if you get caught having public sex?

Like so much about sex, prevention is better than cure. Simply put, find somewhere you're not going to get caught before you get busy.

That said, if you're unlucky and do get caught by a stunned dog walker, you're probably best getting your clothes on and getting the hell out of there.

If your lovemaking is interrupted by a cop you'll probably get moved on or cautioned, depending on where you are.

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Recent examples of outdoor romping include: