Urinating student avoids prison

A student who was warned that he might be sent to prison for urinating on a war memorial was instead given community service yesterday.

Philip Laing, 19, admitted outraging public decency after being photographed soaking a poppy wreath in Sheffield after a drinking session.

District Judge Anthony Browne ordered Laing to do 250 hours' community service. He said he had considered jailing Laing, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, but he said he had never seen anyone before him who was more contrite.

Judge Browne said Laing had told probation officers he had drunk a bottle of whiskey with a friend before heading out on a pub crawl where all the drinks were £1. He said he understood Laing was so drunk he couldn't remember anything of the evening.

The judge said: "What you have done has outraged and offended many and has saddened most. I received many letters from members of the public but I am required to decide your sentence on the basis of the facts of the case and principles of law alone.

"I have never seen anyone more contrite for what has happened nor one who regrets more the hurt and distress he has caused. You have understandably had the wrath and indignation of the public heaped upon you and your family."

Laing's parents were in court yesterday. As she left, his mother said: "He's sorry. He's very, very sorry."

The judge told the court that "something does need to be done" about the drinking culture that led to Laing's behaviour.