We know the police are fed up with the amount of paperwork the job now entails, but they seem to have a pretty weird idea of how they should be spending their time. At a time when we're increasingly concerned about anti-social behaviour, new guidelines being given to senior officers seem to imply that they should ignore some indecency offences.
The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 banned activities like dogging, where people meet and have sex in places like parks and lay-bys, and cottaging, where gay men do the same thing in public toilets. Now, the politically correct deputy chief constable Michael Cunningham, who rejoices in the title of Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) spokesman on lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual issues, thinks the police should only prosecute people as a last resort and concentrate their efforts instead on known "hotspots" which they can identify using the internet. I have this vision of PC Plod spending hours back at the station instead of patrolling the streets, logging on to kinky websites, sustained on a steady intake of super-strong tea ....
Mr Cunningham is worried that gay and lesbian communities might feel alienated by current policing methods, and thinks installing bright lights or CCTV cameras at places where these activities go on might act as a better deterrent. I doubt it – some will find this a turn-on – just like starring in your own telly extravaganza with your naughty bits hanging out. Cunningham is also concerned that married men who live double lives face humiliation and the breakdown of their relationships if they are publicly outed by being prosecuted. I'm not in favour of a witch-hunt, but decency laws were passed because most people find the sight of people shagging in public unacceptable. Public toilets might be another matter – I can't see the point of endlessly raiding them, if all you can come up with is George Michael out of his head on crack.
Do we really sympathise with former footballer Stan Collymore, who enjoyed outdoor sex with complete strangers? He's entitled to his little turn-on, but I wouldn't be very happy if I were on a walk with another woman or some children and returned to our car to find the next vehicle contained a couple of naked backsides.
In Dubai, however, the authorities adopt a far more rigorous approach to public sexual activity. Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors were found guilty of indulging in drunken sex on the beach after a boozy lunch, and have been sentenced to three months in jail and deportation. Hoorah! If only our weedy police would do the same here, instead of logging on to find the nearest gay cottaging site.
We are told Michelle Palmer is suffering from panic attacks and has lost her job, but I don't feel sorry for her – she behaved like a trollop, the kind you spend time avoiding every weekend in our city centres where hen parties roam the streets like Fat Slags on acid. After meeting Mr Acors at an "eat and drink all you like" £35 Friday brunch at a luxury hotel, they decamped to a public beach and started making out. Ignoring the police who told them to curb their behaviour, they were having sex on a lounger when they were arrested. The normal sentence in Dubai for such an offence can be a year in jail. If they had been bonking on the beach in Margate, they would have been let off with a caution, and no one would have found out. And we wonder why yobbish behaviour is on the increase.
Beeb stars shrink from the North
David Dimbleby is furious the BBC wants to relocate 'Question Time' to Scotland. I can't imagine why. The programme broadcasts from a different location every week and I doubt David visits the office to type out his expenses. The Beeb also plans to base sport and children's programming in Salford in order to placate critics who say the organisation is too metropolitan. Half of all programming will be made outside London by 2016, and it looks like Alan Yentob, who's never worked anywhere but the BBC and is one of its highest-paid executives, is going to have to leave the cosy confines of Holland Park. Alan is best pals with Ruth Rogers and practically lives in the River Café, so stand by for a fight. Grilled polenta, anyone?
Tasteful art or a dog's breakfast?
London has been awash with art groupies, with four art fairs on simultaneously. DesignArt, Zoo, Scope, and the gold card event which started the whole shebang, Frieze in Regent's Park, all end tonight, which will probably be not a moment too soon for the livers of those concerned. Frieze held a swanky dinner sponsored by Cartier on the top floor of Centrepoint the other night, but there were at least four other big bashes happening at exactly the same time. These exhibitions are not the place for sensitive artists – often the work was jammed into small booths and it can be hard to tell whether you're looking at the owner's breakfast or a cutting-edge still life. At Zoo, one exhibit consisted of a toaster surrounded by white bread on which the Mona Lisa's face had been burnt. Very tasteful!
Class politics Prescott's pop at 'middle-class' Blairs
There's something pathetic about former politicians who don't adapt well to life in the outside world. Ken Livingstone was telling people at the Cheltenham Literary Festival recently he misses politics – and he didn't even have a book to promote. John Prescott is equally at sea, and now his nemesis, the upwardly mobile Peter Mandelson, is back, which must really rankle. In a forthcoming BBC documentary about class, Prescott has a pop at the pretensions of Cherie and Tony – furious that in spite of 10 years in power, he was never invited to Chequers. One night when he and Pauline were asked to dine with the Blairs, he was informed Tony would be wearing chinos (Prezza admits he hasn't a clue what chinos are) and Pauline could dress "casually". Prezza proudly tells us, "My wife has never dressed casual in her life". Pauline Prescott, once a hairdresser, has a lot in common with Joan Collins. Both never leave the house without full make-up and shoulder pads. Difference is, Joan starred in 'Dynasty', whereas Pauline looks like that to visit her local supermarket.
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