1999 March

Submission to the Home Office Sex Offences Review Team

Su McLean-Tooke,
Sex Offence Review Team,
Room 253,
Home Office,
50, Queen Anne’s Gate,
LONDON. SW1H 9AT

19th March 1999

Dear Ms. McLean-Tooke,

Herewith our contribution to the Home Office Review of Sex Offences. Please do not hesitate to contact us via any of the addresses above if we can be of further assistance.

We understand the review will take some time, after which there will be a further consultation period. We anticipate taking a further part during this when we will be very happy to explain the proposals, whatever their form, to audiences throughout the land.

Although prostitution is excluded by the terms of reference from the current review, nothing in our submission should be interpreted as condoning the continued criminalisation of prostitution per se.

Yours truly,

John Beeson (for OutRage!)

SUBMISSION TO THE SEX OFFENCES REVIEW TEAM

INTRODUCTION

Our Statement of Aims is as follows:

OutRage! is a broad-based group of queers, committed to radical, non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to:

ASSERT the dignity and human rights of queers;
FIGHT homophobia, discrimination and violence directed against us;
AFFIRM our rights to sexual freedom, choice and self determination.
Any organisation with these aims must welcome a chance to review the law on homosexual crime and ‘make recommendations that will provide coherent and clear sex offences which will protect individuals, especially children and the more vulnerable, from abuse and exploitation’.

We believe the present laws against gay men, and to a lesser extent lesbians, are unjust, blatantly homophobic and, compared to similar laws controlling heterosexual behaviour, totally unequal. This inequality extends to the protection of minors, enforcement, penalties, charges and sentences.

We do not believe that consensual actions between adults, no matter how bizarre they might appear to the majority, are any concern of the law, or its agents. Thus we seek to legitimise consenting actions in bath-houses and saunas, ‘backrooms’ in pubs, and all group sex in private, including sadomasochistic games. We would also like to extend the concept of private to include public lavatory cubicles and after-dark ‘cruising’ areas.

Where activities such as ‘cruising’ and ‘cottaging’ are the subject of complaint from a member of the general public, the complainant should be required to appear at any subsequent trial and the offence, if any, should be regarded as a misdemeanour.

This group believes that, since recreational sex is a natural activity and popular pursuit, all laws which seek to control it should be abolished. However, abuse of trust and sex by adults with minors should remain punishable as at present: though there may be a case for the review group to give sensitive consideration to examples of experimentation between those just above and just below a fixed age of consent.

The whole basis of the current homosexual control laws is moralistic and based on a largely medieval concept of Christianity which we believe has no place in a pluralistic democratic society. Terms such as immoral, indecent, unnatural, sodomy and buggery have no place in a modern legal code.

Sex Offenders’ Register

While we are anxious to ensure that the vulnerable are protected from assault and abuse, we are greatly concerned about the implementation of the Register, the ease with which names may unnecessarily be added, and the difficulty in removing names no longer appropriate, (e.g. where the offence for which a person was added is subsequently decriminalised).

We also believe that the best way to promote protection of the vulnerable is through education, in schools and in the workplace, to inculcate the notion of respect for self and for others. Criminalising behaviour is at best a second string to the bow.

HOW OUTRAGE! BELIEVES THE LAWS SHOULD BE CHANGED

The Sexual Offences Act, 1956

This act could be reformed by simply making all sections gender neutral, that is persons instead of man, woman, boy or girl, adding ‘whether anal or vaginal’ to references to sexual intercourse and then repealing sections which no longer apply.

Thus Sections 1 to 10 could be reformed, Sections 11 and 12 and 13 repealed, and the reference to bestiality with an animal in Section 12 transferred to animal cruelty legislation. Section 14 should be reformed and Sections 15 and 16 repealed. Section 17 should be reformed and Section 19 repealed.

Sections 20 to 30 could be reformed and Sections 31 and 32 repealed. Sections 33 to 38 reformed and Section 41 repealed. This only leaves Sections 42 to 48 to be reformed.

Public Order Act 1986

We would endorse Martin Bowley’s group’s proposal that this Act should have Sections 4a and 5 modified to allow it to be used to regulate sex acts in public. They suggest that Section 5 should be modified as follows:

A person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening words or behaviour, or disorderly or indecent behaviour within hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

A similar modification should be made to Section 4a to cover intentional harassment.

Vagrancy Act 1824
Section 4. Repeal.

Street Offences Act 1959
Section 1 and 2. Modify to gender neutral.

Sexual Offences Act 1967.
Repeal the whole Act.

Criminal Law Act 1977
Section 54 part 1 and 2. Modify to gender neutral.

Sexual Offences Act 1985
Section 1 and 2. Modify to gender neutral.
Section 4 part 1. Modify to gender neutral. Repeal parts 2 and 3.

Common Law

  1. No proceedings shall take place against any person for any actual or pretended common law offence of sodomy or buggery with mankind, of any attempt solicitation or assault with intent to do the same, or of committing diverse, unlawful, unnatural, and sodomitical practices.
  2. The offences at common law of conspiracy to corrupt public morals or outrage public decency should be abolished except in so far as they relate to any substantive criminal offence.
  3. The offences at common law of outraging public decency and the keeping of a disorderly house should be abolished.

Virgin Insurance – Letter to Richard Branson

Is ‘gay-friendly’ company loading insurance premiums?

Richard Branson
Virgin Communications Ltd
186 Campden Hill Road
London W8 7CH

23 February 1999

Dear Sir,

Some weeks ago I applied for Virgin life insurance. During a telephone conversation I was asked questions about my sexuality that I feel were intrusive and discriminatory. Your agent conducted the interview in a professional and friendly manner, and I have no complaint whatsoever with him. The questions themselves were the problem.

Virgin has a long record of support for gay community events, consequently, it seems incongruous that you should include questions in your life insurance interview that imply that gay people will be discriminated against by higher premiums, if their application is accepted in the first place. Unlike smoking, for instance, being gay is a given, not a choice.

As your actuaries will be aware, there are other means of covering you against loss resulting from lifestyle risk that are used by other companies. If a company with the reputation of Virgin would set the example by removing discriminatory questions from your insurance applications, I am certain that others will follow. You will thus gain the further gratitude of the gay community and send out the message that you treat all your customers equally.

Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,

David Allison


Dear Mr Allison

Thank you for your letter, dated 23rd February 1999, giving your concerns regarding the questions you were asked in order to obtain a quotation.

I appreciate that all of the questions we ask are of a personal nature, however we do need to ask these to ensure that we are assessing any application fully. To enable us to give a fair cost to all of our customers we need to assess a number of areas that could potentially pose a risk to us, and therefore our customers. The areas that need to be specifically evaluated are our customer’s health, lifestyle, occupation and hobbies, and questions are asked about all of these areas.

Unlike insurance cover provided by many other insurance companies, Virgin Life and Serious Illness insurance does not have an HIV exclusion clause as we aim to provide as much cover as possible for our customers. Any possible risk factors must therefore be assessed when considering individual costs.

While we do not have any immediate plans to alter the questions we ask, our customer’s views are very important to us and are considered when making changes. Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write to us.

Yours sincerely

Judy Gregory

Virgin Direct
Virgin Direct Personal Financial Service Ltd
Virgin Direct Personal Financial Service Ltd is regulated by
the Personal Investment Authority for life insurance,
pension and unit trust business and represents
only the Virgin Direct marketing group.
Registered office: Discovery House,
Whiting Road. Norwich NR4 6EJ
Registered in England no. 3072766
CS6-12.97

Grotesque Violation of Human Rights

Terry Connell and supporters, defiant after the appeal. ©1999 John Hunt/OutRage! London

Bolton 7 – Terry Connell to appeal to Europe

Today, Friday, 5th March, the Court of Appeal dismissed Terry Connell’s appeal against sentence for consensual gay sex in private: behaviour that would be legal elsewhere in Europe. If he were heterosexual, he would never even have been charged.

The Court sat at 10:30 to hear Terry Munyard QC explain that this was a ‘victimless crime’, where all the participants were willing and no one was corrupted; that the sex took place in private behind closed doors, where no one was outraged or offended; that the video was not made for commercial purposes; and that the British Government has effectively abandoned its case against Euan Sutherland, recognising that, since current legislation breaches the European Convention on Human Rights, the law must and will change.

[The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, shortly to be debated in the House of Lords, is a direct consequence of this.]

Lord Justice Mantell interrupted Mr. Munyard at one point to state categorically that Connell’s work as a gay activist did not count against him, since campaigning for the law to be changed “never could be a matter for complaint”.

The Court rose at 10:45. Three minutes later, after full consideration and due deliberation, the Appeal Judges returned with their typed ruling, which was read by Lord Justice Douglas Brown. They found that, under the existing law, “the learned judge” (Michael Lever) was entirely correct in imposing nine months’ imprisonment: though, in regard to the “special circumstances” of the case (as outlined by Terry Munyard), he had suspended this for two years.

Mr. Munyard commented afterwards: “The attitude of the Court to what they know is a violation of the European Convention is absolutely grotesque”.

Connell, undismayed by today’s ruling, is determined to take his appeal to Europe. “The prejudice shown to gay people in this country is akin to the prejudice shown to black people in America in the 60’s”, he said. “Although we will never be fully rid of racism or homophobia, the powers that be should be doing more to promote equality. The fight goes on.”

Connell was accompanied today by a number of friends, together with campaigners from OutRage! and CHE. John Hunt of OutRage! explained: “Nine months in prison (albeit suspended) seems out of all proportion for a blow-job in any circumstances. It is a bitter blow to have the sentence confirmed today: and, as counsel stated, it is a serious breach of the fundamental human right to equal treatment.

“Last year’s prosecution alone cost £ ½ million; and the costs of the appeal have not yet been calculated. How paranoid are the authorities in this benighted country that they spend hand over fist to persecute peaceful citizens? Terry is to be commended in his resolve to continue fighting injustice. We will continue to support his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, (which ruled in October 1997 that Britain’s unequal age of consent is unlawful).”

[Only on Monday the European Court found prima facie evidence of breaches by the MoD of Articles 3 (torture and degrading treatment), Article 8 (Privacy) and Articles 12 and 14 (right to enjoy rights without discrimination!) in its treatment of lesbian and gay personnel. It is to be expected that they will find similarly in this case.]