By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
*Code Brown alert!*
You guessed it: Poo’s in the news, and last week saw a case of “dropping the kids off at the pool” go horribly wrong.
On 15 February 2019, a woman copped a steamy fine (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6708069/Woman-24-cops-850-fine-sneaking-car-yard-POO-ute.html) of almost $1,000 for allegedly jumping into the back of a ute, and well, doing a poo.
The 24-year-old public pooper was walking with a friend along Pittwater Road in Brookvale in Sydney’s north.
At about 1:55am, it is reported that the pair allegedly snuck into a car dealership, at which point the woman hopped into the utility tray of a white Isuzu vehicle.
She is alleged to have then pulled down her underwear and proceeded to empty her bowels in the back of the car, leaving behind a mess and some paper.
As you do.
Caught in the Act: Police Bust Woman for Dirty Deed
It so happened that at the time, police were patrolling the area, and much to the woman’s bad luck, she was spotted as she crouched down in the rear end of the vehicle.
Sprung in the middle of her dirty deed, the young woman pulled up her underwear and ran from the caryard to a nearby street, leaving her friend at the car dealership – and her foul deposit.
Upon inspection of the scene, police discovered the woman’s faeces.
Although the public pooper fled, she was eventually found nearby. It is reported that she then confessed to defecating in the back of the ute.
Bowel Movement Bandit Fined for Offensive Conduct and Forced to Scoop Her Poop
The Brookvale woman was fined $850 on the spot – $500 for offensive conduct and $350 for unlawfully entering enclosed land without lawful excuse (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/criminal-law/offences/unlawful-entry-onto-enclosed-lands/) – arguably setting a record for Australia’s most expensive poo.
She was also ordered by police to clean up the deposit she left behind, which she did with a with a latex glove.
The bowel movement bandit and her friend were then asked to leave the area.
The Psychological Drive Behind Pooping in Public
In most parts of the world, and certainly those like Australia that are blessed with effective, modern sanitation, it is commonly understood that poo belongs inside a person, or in a toilet.
And yet every now and then, stories surface of people who brazenly defecate in public, leaving behind shock to the community – and of course their number twos.
Indeed, we may wonder whether this kind of conduct comes down to medical conditions, or whether pooing in public is an extreme act of rebellion.
According to clinical forensic psychologist and anger management expert at Birmingham City University in England, Professor Mike Berry, factors that may cause someone to drop their pants in public (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-44395861) vary between rage, anxiety, a desire to send a message, alcohol or illness.
“It’s interesting,” Professor Berry says.
“I’ve worked on cases where burglars have crapped in the house – and I always ask the police whether it’s soft or hard. They look at me like I’m absolutely mad. And I say, if it’s soft, then it’s somebody who’s anxious, so you get a kid who goes and craps on the bed. And if it’s a really hard stool then it’s an indication of somebody’ who’s angry and bitter about what he’s doing.”
According to Professor Berry, another key question to ask is whether the culprit does it repeatedly in the same place. If they’re regular (pun intended), then it “becomes a message to somebody or some people.”
Indeed, there are also unfortunate situations in which a person with an upset stomach or a more serious bowel condition might be unable to hold it in until they make it to a toilet in time. However, in looking purely at those who do it on purpose, it is clear to divide the cases into one-off incidents and systematic campaigns.
Meanwhile, those who defecate in public may also have mental health issues, or a “fascination with their own poo”, causing them to carry out the dirty deed.
The Offence of Offensive Conduct (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/criminal-law/offences/assault/offensive-language-or-conduct/) in NSW
Offensive conduct carries a maximum penalty of 3-months imprisonment and/or $660 fine if it is dealt with by a Magistrate in the Local Court. (section 4 Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) (https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/1988/25/part2/div1/sec4)).
A person who commits the offence of offensive conduct in NSW can be issues with a penalty notice/on-the-spot fine (https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/regulation/2017/437/sch4) of $500 by a police officer. This is an alternative to issuing an offender with a court attendance notice requiring him/her to attend court to face the charge in-front of a Magistrate in the Local Court who can impose a criminal conviction, imprisonment and fine.
If the on-the-spot fine is paid, the offender will not get a criminal record for the offence. The matter will be dealt with and finalised upon payment of the penalty notice.
However, if issued with a penalty notice for this offence, you may still court-elect, in which case you will receive a court date and face a Magistrate in the Local Court who may impose those heavy penalties, including a criminal conviction and fine.
If an offensive conduct charge is heard and dealt with in court, a person guilty of this will walk away conviction-free if the Magistrate is convinced to impose a non-conviction penalty, such as a section 10 dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/blog/the-end-of-section-10-bonds-in-nsw-as-a-sentencing-option/).
In NSW, a person will be guilty of offensive conduct if he/she conducts him/herself in an offensive
manner either in or near or within view or hearing from a public place or a school.
The law considers conduct to be offensive if someone conducts him/herself in such a way that it will wound the feelings, arouse anger, disgust, resentment or outrage to a reasonable person’s mind, either within hearing or view, or near a public place or school.
As the aforementioned case highlights, offensive conduct also includes defecating in public. While some people find such an act amusing, many people are in fact deeply offended by it.
A reasonable person is considered by the law as someone who is not ‘thin-skinned’.
The reasonable person is the hypothetical person- as the law does not require proof that an actual person was in fact there or present to view the alleged offensive conduct.
Offensive conduct differs to ‘offensive language’, which is a crime under Section 4A (http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/soa1988189/s4a.html), also of the Summary Offences Act. Under the law of offensive conduct, a person cannot be found guilty of offensive conduct simply from using offensive language.
Some of the defences to offensive conduct include, expressions of political opinion, or behaving in self-defence, or where you have a reasonable excuse for conducting yourself in that way, or if your conduct would not cause disgust, outrage, resentment, anger or wound the feelings of a hypothetical reasonable person in today’s society.
For any questions on offensive conduct or entering enclosed lands, our criminal lawyers are located in Parramatta (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/about-us/offices/) and many other locations across NSW for advice. We are available 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.