The Philip Laing saga ended on Thursday with a refreshingly measured decision on the part of Judge Anthony Browne.

The media scrum to be the first with the sentence was expected, it would seem, by everyone except Sheffield Magistrates Court, who held the hearing in one of their smaller courtrooms, leading to several members of the press being excluded from proceedings to prevent a “fire hazard”. The fact that the court had a responsibility to move the hearing to a larger venue to accommodate the amassed press seemed to have been forgotten by the surly court staff. A complaint is in progress.

Thought it was a little off that Laing was allowed the privilege of being sneaked in the back door again. People who’ve done much worse frequently make the walk of shame across the main entrance bridge.

Not to mention the naivety of expecting to fox photographers with something so cunning as a different door.

Laing spared jail
26th November 2009

Philip Laing, the Sheffield Hallam University student who provoked national outrage after urinating on a war memorial, avoided jail at Sheffield Magistrates Court on Thursday.

The 19-year-old sports technology student from Macclesfield, Cheshire pleaded guilty to outraging public decency last month.  He was photographed relieving himself on a poppy wreath on the cenotaph in Barkers Pool.

He had been taking part in a Carnage bar crawl event and had been drinking heavily, sharing a bottle of whisky with a friend and taking advantage of £1-a-drink offers.

District Judge Anthony Browne, who had previously warned Laing he could be jailed for the offence, sentenced him to 250 hours’ community service and ordered him to pay £185 in costs.

Judge Browne told the court that although Laing was responsible for his actions, a culture which encourages heavy drinking had led to his behaviour.

He said “Let me make this perfectly clear. No one forced you to take all this drink, or forced it down you, or persuaded you to commit a criminal offence. You did that all by yourself, and you must take responsibility.

“But all this is set against a backdrop, as your solicitor has said, of a culture of drinking far too much. In my view something needs to be done to change this culture.”

Laing’s solicitor, Tim Hughes said he had “paid an extremely high price for one evening of complete and utter foolishness”. He said that Laing was “terrified” of the prospect of jail, and said it would “utterly destroy what could otherwise be a good, hard-working, tax-paying life.”

Laing arrived at court wearing a dark grey suit, pink shirt and red and blue striped tie. Police allowed him to use a rear entrance to enter and exit the court building, in an attempt to avoid the gathering media.

Explaining his decision to not send Laing to Jail, Judge Browne said he had never seen anyone so “contrite” for what had happened.

He said: “You have understandably had the wrath and indignation of the public heaped upon you and your family. The University are yet to decide your fate here in Sheffield. You have already been significantly punished and castigated.”

Following the hearing, a spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University said: “The University has already initiated disciplinary proceedings against this student.

“Now that the judicial process has been completed we will arrange a disciplinary hearing to decide appropriate sanctions.”

From, 26/11/09


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