‘Cottagers’ blamed after vandalism of public loos
MEN using a public toilet in St Brelade to meet other men for sex have caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage, a nearby business owner has claimed.
Karl Sutton, who runs the Hang Out kiosk at La Pulente, says that he has been forced to keep the public toilets, which he looks after on behalf of the landowner, locked due to the behaviour of some people who were using the facilities as a cruising spot.
The public can now only access the toilets – which feature on a website called The Cruising Gays City Hook Up Guide – if they ask Mr Sutton for a key during the kiosk’s opening hours.
The Cruising Gays website also lists six other Jersey toilets – Pier Road car park, Snow Hill, Green Island, La Haule, Bonne Nuit and La Collette – for cruising activity.
The site ranks each bathroom destination out of five stars and includes a brief description of the facilities. Pier Road and Bonne Nuit both ranked the highest of the Jersey entries, receiving four stars.
The description for the Bonne Nuit toilet states: ‘Quiet toilet, really good for the evenings. Two cubicles, one closer to the door used most frequently by cruisers.’
In another section of the website titled ‘Areas’, Portelet Common received four stars, but the description adds: ‘Recent Police Activity has reduced “visitors” considerably. Mixed ages/types.’
The States police say that meeting in a public toilet is not in itself an offence, but may amount to an offence of gross outrage of public decency if an offender has committed an act of a lewd, obscene or disgusting nature, which has been seen by more than one person.
‘The act need not be committed in a public place, but must be committed where the general public might be able to see the act,’ a police spokeswoman said. ‘In this case the cubicle of a toilet is classed as a public place and therefore two persons in a cubicle engaged in an “activity” would commit an offence.’
In 2016 there were six arrests made for offences that caused gross outrage of public decency. There were three recorded in 2017 and none so far this year. However, none of the arrests related to offences committed in public toilets, but rather solo sex acts carried out in a public place or in view of the public.
Last year 48-year-old Jason Bushell Sutton was jailed for ten months after he used the gay dating website Grindr to try to arrange to meet someone he thought was a 15-year-old boy in the toilets at Patriotic Street car park. He had in fact been communicating with Cheyenne O’Connor, an online paedophile hunter who was posing as a teenager, who passed photographs of Sutton at the car park as well as transcripts of the online conversation they had to the police.
La Pulente Kiosk owner Karl Sutton is currently looking after the public toilets on behalf of Simon Sloman, who runs Slomans Estate Agents, and who bought the toilets from the States in 2014 for about £120,000. Under his agreement with the States Mr Sloman, who intends to build a café at the site, said he would keep the toilets open to the public and maintained.
As work on the new café has not yet started, Mr Sutton is running a kiosk at the site and, in return for using Mr Sloman’s water and electricity, is maintaining the toilets.
However, Mr Sutton estimates that he has spent about £1,000 cleaning up after vandals who have repeatedly smeared faeces on the walls, smashed lights and thrown toilet rolls around.
‘What is going on down there is unbelievable,’ Mr Sutton said. ‘All these characters are coming down, not for a tea or coffee but to hang around not really doing anything and disappearing to go down to the toilet.
‘It is a massive gay cruising spot at night time.’
He added: ‘Messages have been written on the back of the wall saying: “If you want to meet up for a good time...” with a [phone] number.
‘You text the number and within a minute someone will reply.
‘There were beer cans, it stunk of cigarettes. They smashed the lights so people can’t see what they were doing.’
Debbie Archer, a clinical nurse specialist in sexual health who works at the Island’s Genito Urinary Medicine clinic, said the cruising scene in Jersey was ‘nothing new’.
‘In England there are lots of places, clubs and pubs, for gay gentleman to go to,’ she said. ‘There is nowhere for them to meet here other than the websites. They struggle meeting partners.’
She also warned that people should attend the GUM clinic every time they had a new partner because a lot of sexual infections did not present with symptoms.
‘If someone has an infection, part of our job is to try to contact their partners to get them in to test,’ Ms Archer said. ‘With casual sex, when they don’t have the contact details that makes our job harder.’
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