Cruising, cottaging & the law
There is no law specifically prohibiting cruising, and sex in public places is not illegal, as long as other people who might be offended cannot see you and are unaware that you are having sex.
Police guidelines advise that the police should only respond to complaints from the public and should not mount proactive operations designed to catch people cruising.
However, there are circumstances when the police may mount patrols or intelligence led operations, for example if there are reports of homophobic attacks or robberies. It is not against the law for people to loiter, engage in conversation or walk around a cruising ground with the purpose of meeting others. In other words, you can not be arrested simply for going cruising.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 however makes it illegal to procure or engage in sex in a public toilet and is against the law for both gay and straight people. You can risk being arrested for cottaging regardless of whether you are being discreet or not. For example, having sex in a cubicle behind closed doors is still illegal.
The LGF police advice surgery is held every Thursday evening between 6pm and 8pm at Number 5, Richmond Street, Manchester M1 3HF. No appointment necessary.
Read about the LGF Police surgery
Sexual offences & public order
If you engage in sexual activity that may cause alarm to others, such as indecent exposure you could be arrested under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 or the Public Order Act 1986.
It is advisable to be discreet to avoid attracting attention.
The police may mount operations at cruising grounds in response to complaints from the public. Ensure you take any used condoms or related literature with you when you leave.
Warnings by the police
The police may issue you with a formal warning if they believe you have someone has committed an offence.
If a police officer takes your name and address, this might mean they will make a formal record of the warning. A police warning is recorded locally, and would not normally show up on a Criminal Records Bureau check, but may be disclosed on an enhanced check.
The police do not have the right to stop you because you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans or simply because you are in a cruising ground.
If you feel that you have been unfairly treated whilst cruising, you should contact The LGF or Galop for more advice.
The Lesbian & Gay Foundation
0845 3 30 30 30
020 7704 2040