The Bolton 7 remain convicted of consenting gay sex in the privacy of their own homes: but they walked free from court on 20th February, largely thanks to the high-profile defence campaign that inundated the court with over 400 letters of protest from MP’s, bishops, and human rights groups.
The judge, Michael Lever, QC, handed down probation and community service orders to the younger defendants: Gary Abdie, David Godfrey, Mark Love and Jonathan Moore, (all in their early 20’s), and to Craig Turner, aged 18.
He gave Norman Williams (33) a two-year suspended prison sentence. Terry Connell (55) received a nine-month suspended sentence, and was ordered to pay £ 500 towards the cost of the prosecution.
Both Williams and Connell, (who had sex with Turner when he was 17½, just six months below the gay age of consent), were forced to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register, which lumps them together with rapists and child sex abusers.
“While we were pleased the men were not jailed, none of them should have been dragged to court in the first place”, according to John Hunt of OutRage!, which played a leading role in the Bolton 7 defence campaign.
“These seven men were prosecuted for behaviour that, between heterosexuals, is not a crime. They would never have been arrested if their partners had been women.
“The Bolton-7 case demonstrates that the gay community remains vulnerable to police witch-hunts. These antiquated laws, which are still on the statute books, can be activated at any time. It is a warning against apathy and complacency. We should never assume that equality is inevitable or that an end to discrimination is just around the corner”, said Hunt.
“Five of the seven men were convicted under the same gross indecency law that was used to convict Oscar Wilde in 1895”, noted fellow OutRage! campaigner, Peter Tatchell. “Three were prosecuted under a buggery law that dates back to 1533.
“This prosecution is proof of the on-going homophobic bias of the legal system. It is time to abolish all laws that apply only to gay men, and all crimes without victims”, he said.
The most comprehensive and accurate reports on the Bolton 7 case have been written by OutRage! campaigner Peter Tatchell, and published in the February and March issues of Gay Times. A further extensive post-sentencing report on the case will appear in the April issue of Gay Times.
OutRage! is supporting and publicising an urgent appeal for donations to help pay for the defence campaign, and for the £ 500 costs awarded against Terry Connell. Please send your contribution to:
“Bolton 7 Defence Campaign”,
c/o Greater Manchester Lesbian & Gay Policing Initiative,
P.O. Box 100,