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Philip Laing - The Student Who Urinated on the War Memorial

Updated on August 23, 2017

Philip Laing - The Story in Brief

Philip Laing was at the time a nineteen year old University student from Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK. In October 2009, he was pictured in the City of Sheffield, relieving himself over a wreath of poppies at a War Memorial (not the one pictured), a site honouring the British servicemen and women who have died for their country in conflicts around the world. At the time, Philip Laing had been on an organised seven-hour drinking binge with an incredible two thousand fellow students in the city. The state of his inebriation is therefore not in question. What is in question is what the fitting punishment should be for this young man and how he should pay his debt not only to society but to the memories of all those millions of heroes which he desecrated.

Philip Laing in Court - November 4th, 2009

Facing charges of, "Outraging Public Decency"

Philip Laing attended Sheffield Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 and pleaded guilty to the charge of outraging public decency. The court was told of how he had been on a drinking binge organised by a company called, "Carnage UK," which involved approximately two thousand students touring a number of pubs and clubs in the city - over a seven hour period - on a designated route and drinking in each one of them. The appropriateness of the name of this company is not something for me to judge but when such an event is organised, it seems in my humble opinion that something other than a huge sleep-over could very well result!

Sentencing on Philip Laing was deferred until Thursday, November 26th, 2009 for reports to be produced but the judge was careful to point out that he had ruled nothing out at that stage, including a period of imprisonment. So what is British (and beyond) public opinion of the crime committed by Philip Laing and - perhaps most significantly at this stage - what punishment should be handed down to him as a result?

What is an Appropriate Sentence for Philip Laing for Urinating on the War Memorial?

Should he be sent to prison?

Firstly, I am in no doubt - and believe few will be - that the root cause of Philip Laing coming to urinate on the War Memorial was the amount of alcohol which he had consumed. In no sense am I suggesting that this factor excuses his reprehensible action; I am merely stating the almost certain fact that this was the reason for his actions. The two are of course quite different considerations.

Although I am no legal expert, lawyer or judge, it is my understanding that in the British - and probably in most Western countries' - legal system, one of the factors which a sentencing judge has to take in to account is whether sending someone convicted of a crime to prison is in the public interest. Although I have no doubt that many would say, "Yes - he deserves to suffer for his heinous act!" and I totally agree, I also would suggest that he is already suffering and is likely to do so for some considerable time to come, in many different respects.

So what would sending Philip Laing to prison - at immense taxpayers' expense - achieve other than meaningless perceived vengeance? At no time has it been suggested that he is a threat in any way to the public at large at this time in his life. The chances are, however, that time spent behind bars would convert an incredibly foolish and naïve young man in to perhaps a drug user, petty thief, or worse. There is no doubt that as well as punishing criminals, the prison system frequently makes them and sending Philip Laing to prison may ultimately prove to have the opposite from the desired effect.

What Philip Laing did when he urinated on the War Memorial is deeply offensive to all with a sense of decency, honour, patriotism and much, much more. At the same time, however, we have to consider the fact that not only does Philip Laing probably regret his action more than anything he has ever done in his life before but that Philip Laing is now in a position where he can serve the public interest and seek to make amends for his crime far better out of prison than in prison. What Philip Laing must first of all do is apologise very publicly and profusely for the storm his action has caused and seek himself to begin attempting to make amends prior to the court deciding his fate. He may wish to begin doing so by offering his assistance to charitable causes related to service veterans and their families. He may also wish to join some form of campaign against the evils of excess alcohol consumption, particularly in such an irresponsible, pre-meditated fashion.

There is no question that formal punishment from a court of law is indeed warranted in this instance. Philip Laing himself must surely be aware of that and know that he has little choice but to accept it graciously. Although it may surprise many who know me - who would expect me to be at the head of the lynch mob in these circumstances - I personally believe that a lengthy period of compulsory and relevant community service in this instance would serve all concerned far better than a period of incarceration, over and above that service which Philip Laing would be well advised to perform of his own accord.

What do you think should be the sentence passed on Philip Laing?

The Royal British Legion

Serving the interests of British Service Personnel and Veterans

I have no knowledge of the financial status of Philip Laing and his family but they may wish to provide some of the required recompense by making a donation to The Royal British Legion, which serves the interests of British Service Personnel today and Service Veterans alike. Anyone in fact wishing to make a donation to this most worthy of causes may do so via the link below on The Royal British Legion's website:

Donate to The Royal British Legion

In Grateful and Solemn Memory of Those Who Gave their Tomorrows for our Today's - Click on the arrow in the centre of the screen to play the video

Thursday, November 26th, 2009: Philip Laing - The Sentence of the Court

The judge at Sheffield Magistrates' Court passes sentence

District Judge Anthony Browne has today sentenced Philip Laing to carry out 250 hours of community service for his disgraceful act of urinating on a War Memorial in Sheffield City Centre. Laing committed his crime following a seven-hour organised drinking binge with some two thousand fellow students. He claims to this day to still have no recollection of the outrageous act but this rightly was not seen as an acceptable excuse.

Judge Browne also told Laing that there may be some who believe that a representative of the company - Carnage UK - who organised the irresponsible event should be stood alongside him in the dock. These comments are likely to be supported the length and breadth of the UK and far beyond.

Sheffield Hallam University will require Philip Laing to attend their own internal disciplinary hearing, now that the legal proceedings have been completed.

If you have any comments regarding the actions of Philip Laing in urinating on the War Memorial, what his punishment should be, or the irresponsibility of such organised drinking binges, they may be left in the space below.

Please note, however, that all comments are subject to editorial approval prior to appearing on the site.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Phillip Laing committed a disgraceful act and has since been vilified countrywide by the public and the media. His remorse is with out question. Now let him carry out his sentence, atone for his actions and hopefully get on and succeed with his studies in peace.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      shoulda been head butted disrespectful tosser

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      And bev's comment was: "this student ...oppppssss 'man' oppppssss 'student' needs to learn that he is a free person in he can be a 'student' or 'man' only because the likes of the names he 'urinated' on died to allow him too....

      feel sorry for his mother...his grandparents ...he hardly did them proud did


    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 7 years ago

      Great topic for discussion. Blessed and featured on my Squid Angel Diary this week.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      I'm not sure about imprisonment but I do think a public apology and a lot of community service would be in order. Maybe he could be responsible for sweeping and cleaning the monument and keeping it free of trash as well as what you have suggested.