What To Do If You Have Been Charged With Obscene Exposure

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One streaker last year earned himself a ban for life at the ANZ stadium when he entered the field and ran almost the full length just two minutes before full time.

Wati Holmwood was charged with wilful and indecent exposure as well as entering and remaining on the field without authorisation. As it turns out, he had done the same thing just two years earlier, and his latest escapade occurred just two weeks after a previous good behaviour bond expired.

Chief Superintendent Peter Gillam summed it up perfectly when he said that “no one wants to see a grown man running around naked at a footy match.”

He condemned the act as dangerous, idiotic and senseless.

According to section 5 of the Summary Offences Act NSW, obscene exposure is framed “a person shall not, in or within view from a public place or a school, wilfully and obscenely expose his or her person.”

The word ‘person’ used at the end of the provision, while centuries earlier was taken to mean ‘penis’, it is now gender neutral, and so can apply to men or women.

The penalty is a $1,100 fine or six months prison but you could also get a criminal record, a good behaviour bond, a community service order or suspended sentence.

Like any other defence, if charged with obscene exposure, how you plead is up to you. Depending on the circumstances of your case, pleading not guilty may not be a great option, particularly if you, like Holmwood, were in front of an audience of 83,000 spectators not to mention caught on camera.

Traditional criminal defences like duress or necessity are not very likely to work for you in this kind of situation either.

As with other criminal offences, you must have acted with the intent to act in an obscene manner. This means that you needed to have the intention to expose yourself in order to constitute an offence. But this seems more likely to cover situations like wardrobe malfunctions rather than streaking.

The standard here of ‘indecent’ is that which an ordinary person would hold regarding what is indecent.

If you decide to plead guilty, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of making a favourable impression on the judge and therefore, get a more lenient sentence.

Collecting character references and even writing an apology letter to the court if you have been charged with obscene exposure can increase your chances of demonstrating remorse and ultimately reducing your penalty.

Of course streaking is not the only form of indecent exposure – there are creepier versions. This includes the 63-year-old man that an off-duty police officer caught exposing himself next to a playground earlier this year. At about 4:30 pm in Sydney’s north-west, the man was arrested after the off-duty officer called local police.

If you have been charged with obscene exposure, especially with a previous criminal record, it is best to seek legal advice, as the offence carries potential jail time.

When Holmwood’s solicitor pressed for a non-custodial sentence, he argued that his clients streaking was a “comedic act” and part of a sporting tradition and even tried reasoning that his client was of “limited” intelligence.

But it was of no avail. Holmwood, choked back tears when he heard his two month sentence.

If you were thinking that streaking is just a joke, even a sporting tradition, think again. Holmwood’s sentence demonstrates that the courts won’t go easy on stunts like that, even if it was just a joke. Ask yourself if it is really worth it – the possibility of jail time, a fine, and the implications that a criminal record could have on your job or travel options.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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