What the Law says about Urinating in Public in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

Let’s face it: There’s no feeling quite as frantic or uncomfortable as the desperate need of having to urgently release your bladder – especially when there’s no bathroom in sight.

Indeed, it is one of the most insanely distressing situations we can find ourselves in.

A situation, that, can simply not be ignored, and if ignored, only leads to a despairing scenario where every thought and fibre of your being is occupied by riveting toilet thoughts.

Alas, the fact that humans need to perform toilet functions in order to survivor is inconvenient at best.

The need to release our bowels and bladders constantly interrupts our daily lives. And yet, it is a necessity that cannot be snubbed, giving way to the old adage: “When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go”.

But if you thought finding a dark alleyway or a secluded tree for a sneaky moment to take a tinkle was your solution, then you might want to think again.

Full bladder or not, in NSW, urinating in public is a criminal offence, and should you get caught in the act, urine for some weighty penalties (excuse the terrible pun).

 

The Issue of Urinating in Public

If you thought the act of urinating in public wasn’t an issue we are facing in society, then let’s turn to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) for a case study.

By the end of 2017, so prominent was the subject of public urination that ACT Police instigated a huge crackdown on the act, taking to social media to spread the word.

The Canberra Times reports that according to data from ACT Policing, Canberra’s wee problem saw police issue 326 infringements from September 2015 to December 2017.

Meanwhile, in 2016, police issued criminal infringement notices to 24 people.

In fact, in 2013, Canberra has actually trialled portable urinals during the Easter period in an attempt to dissuade Canberrans from urinating in laneways.

Nevertheless, the trial was short lived and abandoned merely a year later.

 

“Don’t Splash Your Cash”: ACT Police Launches Social Media Crusade

In light of the issue, in December 2017, ACT Police launched a social media crusade that involved a 29-second clip posted to Facebook captioned “Don’t Splash Your Cash! #UrineTrouble #SafeSummer #PartySafe.

The video was part of their safe summer campaign and designed to warn Canberrans that police are on the lookout.

The video is filmed from the perspective of the viewer having a drink with a friend.

Nature quickly calls, however, and so the person then gets up in search of a place to answer the call.

The person stops at a barrier, implying they were contemplating urinating there. However, a prominent red “X” and the words “not a bathroom” appear before him.

The person continues the search before stopping at a tree, followed by a pole. At this point, the viewer is warned that both sites are not proper places to urinate.

Finally, when the person comes across a public toilet, a green tick surfaces on the screen, concluding with the words “Well done!” to acknowledge the person has made the correct decision.

To date, the video has been viewed over 30,000 times.

 

Public Urination Statistics from South Australia

Meanwhile, in South Australia, public urination also seems to be a bit of a problem.

According to The Advertiser, in the financial year 2015/16, almost three people a day were caught urinating or defecating in public across the state, with two thirds of them in the CBD and eastern suburbs.

Figures show 1078 people were fined or cautioned for committing the offence, totalling more than $113,000.

Of those, more than 700, which accounted for $70,865 in fines, were caught in the police Eastern Local Service Area. This area takes in the city and eastern suburbs.

However, the figures also reveal that people are, in fact, holding it in too, with numbers on the decline from 2014/15 during which 1408 South Australians were fined or cautioned.

Of these, only 956 were from the Eastern Local Service Area, totalling $112,805 in fines.

Interestingly, the figures came in the wake of a report delivered to the Adelaide City Council into the state of public toilets in the CBD area which revealed that more than 50 per cent are in only “fair” condition and do not meet Australian standards.

 

What the Law says about Urinating in Public in NSW

Busting to urinate beyond comprehension or not, in NSW, it is an offence to urinate in public.

Section 4 Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) prohibits anyone from conducting themselves in an offensive manner in or near (or within hearing or view from) a public place or school.

This offence is a summary offence with a maximum penalty of 3-months imprisonment or $660 fine with a criminal conviction in the Local Court.

Can you avoid a criminal conviction after pleading guilty to offensive conduct? A criminal conviction can be voided even after pleading guilty if the Magistrate or Judge in court hands down a sentence of a section 10 dismissal non-conviction penalty.

Summary offences can only be dealt with at first instance in the Local Court, which is unlike indictable offences which begin in the Local Court but end up being dealt with in the District Court if elected.

What other offences are ‘summery offences’ in NSW? These include drink driving offences, or custody of a knife in public.

Another fact about this charge is that it’s considered a ‘strict liability offence’. This means that the police only need to prove that you committed the offending act without a need to also prove the mental element referred to as ‘mens rea’ (guilty mind).

Some of the defences that apply to this charge which will get the charge being dismissed include the following:

  1. Where you honestly held a belief resulting in a mistake of fact, in circumstances it was reasonable to have held that belief; or
  2. If you had a reasonable excuse for conducting yourself in the alleged way; or
  3. The conduct occurred in a private location, away from public; or
  4. Your conduct was involuntary due to mental illness or other medical condition; or
  5. You were authorised lawfully; or
  6. You were expressing a political view; or
  7. You committed the conduct under a necessity or duress.

What is the meaning of ‘offensive conduct’? Offensive conduct is behaviour that’s regarded by a hypothetical ordinary reasonable person as disgusting, outrageous, causing resentment, arousing anger or wound the feelings of.

What then is a ‘reasonable person’ under the law? The law says that the ‘reasonable person’ is one that is not ‘thin-skinned’ and is not required to have been physically present at the time of the offence.

What is regarded as ‘offensive’? Whether conduct is regarded as offensive will largely depend on the alleged conduct of the accused, location of the allegation and circumstances of the accused actions.

What once was considered ‘offensive’ a decade ago may well not be considered the same today. This means that conduct may be considered offensive depending on the passage of time.

In this section, a “public place” means public unleased land or premises to which the public or a section of the public has access, whether by payment or not.

Examples of public places include public library or cultural institution, government school or educational facility, public hospital or medical centre, vehicle used for public transport, public park or nature reserve.

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