Once upon a time, in a land north of the border, a man was convicted for having sex with a bicycle.
According to BBC news reports (here and here), he was found by "extremely shocked" hostel cleaners "holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex".
The man admitted a "sexually aggravated breach of the peace" having conducted himself "in a disorderly manner and simulating sex". He was given three years' probation and placed on the Sex Offenders Register, also for three years.
I am not a Scots lawyer, and one can never rely entirely on news reports for "Bad Law" or "The Law is an Ass" type stories (see, for example, here), but I have often thought about this news story.
You know: like, how? Or what?
But also: just what was the law doing being involved in such a personal and private matter?
What if it had been a person using a vibrator?
And so on.
Presumably what made this an offence was that it was seen by the hostel cleaners, who had - it is reported - entered the room with a master key.
If so, to incur criminal liability just because a hostel cleaner enters a room at a certain moment seems a tad unfair.
But, regardless of the merits of this unusual case, there is a wider question: to what extent (if any) can - and should - the law regulate what a person does in a room by themselves?
Can - and should - someone have a personal space where they have absolute autonomy and privacy, so as to do just what the hell they want?
Last week I asked on Twitter what crimes a person could commit alone in an empty room and where there was no electronic media of any kind.
Some suggested suicide, though that has not been an offence in itself since the Suicide Act 1961. Assisting a suicide remains an offence - and I think it is the only "assisting" offence where there is no principal offence - but that, of course, is not a matter for the person in an empty room.
A person could commit criminal damage, but only if there was property in the room which did not solely belong to him or her - such as something jointly owned or subject to a mortgage or suchlike.
A certain sort of person could create extreme pornography - which can include drawings and other "realistic" representations - though that would be difficult without a pencil and paper. Perhaps it could be scratched into the wall with his or her thumbnails?
There would also be a range of possession offences which a certain sort of person could theoretically commit whilst just sitting in an empty room: child pornography, drugs, firearms, and so on.
A recent offence which a person can commit in this empty room is preparation for a terrorist act. And, indeed, there could be a range of offences which one can prepare for whilst in the is empty room and in respect of which one could incur criminal liability depending on the facts of the case and the evidence either admitted by the person or proved by the prosecution.
There may be other potential offences which we can take into account.
A great philosopher once said that all man's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.
However, it would appear that there are certain miseries to do with incurring criminal liability which can be inflicted on a person sitting in a quiet room alone - though it would seem that some object or other also needs to be present.
Some of the offences which one can commit are without doubt ones which should still apply even to a person by themselves - especially the possession offences.
And so the law does not allow a person absolute autonomy and privacy in his or her own private space.
But surely one should be allowed to do what one wants with a bicycle?
Hattip to @Piombo - it appears the "bicycle sex" story may well be a "Bad Law" story - see here.
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