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An Australian man who was captured on a beach by an enraged mob after snapping topless women on his mobile has become the first man to be prosecuted in New South Wales for the offence. Peter Mackenzie, 25, admitted offensive behaviour in a public place and was duly fined A$500 by Waverley Local Court, Australian IT reports.

The Sydney labourer indulged in his bout of electronic perving on 6 November on Coogee Beach. Witnesses told police that Mackenzie, suitably disguised in t-shirt and shorts, ambled down the sands pretending to be talking on his phone. When he spotted a topless woman, he stopped and went into David Bailey mode.

One of the victim's boyfriend soon confronted the candid cameraman. The vigilante was quickly joined by a mob who siezed the pervert and handed him to police. In court, Mackenzie at first protested his innocence, but then 'fessed up, lamenting: "I really feel like I've blemished 25 years of being a decent person."

Legal pundits, however, are uneasy about the conviction. Pauline Wright, chairwoman of the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society of NSW, said that there was "a valid argument that Mackenzie's actions did not constitute offensive behaviour within the meaning of the Crimes Act". She added: "A lot of people would find what he did offensive, but ... you have to prove that he intended to offend."

Wright notes that the charge of offensive behaviour usually applies to indecent exposure, drunkenness, and the like. She concludes that the "creative use" of the charge demonstrated that the law had not kept pace with technological innovations.

Not that such innovations will mean much to Mackenzie in future. The court ordered his mobile phone destroyed, thereby ensuring that he will never again menace the topless Sheilas of Coogee Beach. ®

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