Sex law reforms leave confusion over public acts

Consenting adults will be allowed to have sex at home with the curtains open but will face jail sentences of up to six months for making love in the back garden, the Government said yesterday.

In what ministers describe as the biggest change to the sex laws for 50 years, the Home Office's Sex Offences Bill proposes scrapping discriminatory legislation on homosexuality and aims to increase the proportion of rape cases that lead to conviction.

But the planned changes in the law on sex in public places could cause confusion, civil rights groups said yesterday.

In explanatory notes published with the Bill, the Home Office said an offence would be committed if a sex act took place in a private place and "where activity in that place can be seen in a public place''. The notes said: "An example would be a private garden which can be seen from the street."

The Bill said a distinction was drawn if sex took place inside a "dwelling".

It said: "Where A has sex in his bedroom, leaving his curtains open so he knows there is a risk he will be seen from the house opposite, he does not commit an offence.''

The Bill appears to allow gay men to engage in "cottaging'' – having sex in public lavatories – provided it is done with discretion and out of sight.

It allows for sex in such public places unless "someone will see any part of him or of another participant''.

The Home Office minister Hilary Benn, who outlined the Bill yesterday, said: "If the cubicle door is open then clearly an offence is committed. If it's closed it is different.''

The most important change in the Bill is probably the re-definition of the law on consent in rape cases, an effort to improve the rape conviction rate of seven in every 100 cases.

Mr Benn said that in future juries should presume that consent has not been granted if sex takes place in five given sets of circumstances, including where there has been violence or abduction or if the complainant was asleep or unconscious at the time.

The Bill also attempts to counteract the effects of the Morgan judgment, which allowed rape defendants to claim they "honestly believed'' a complainant had given consent even if no reasonable person would have agreed. Juries should expect men to have taken "reasonable'' steps to ensure that a partner consented to sex, Mr Benn said.

He said: "We are emphatically not saying that you need a piece of paper and a pen but it is saying that if you are going to have sex with someone you need to be confident that they are consenting.''

The Bill proposes a new sentence of up to five years for paedophiles who attempt to "groom'' children for sex on the internet. It also introduces an assumption that children under the age of 13 can in no circumstances be said to have consented to sex.

Suggested Topics
people And here is why...
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?