2000 April

Outcast’s Printers Intimidated

The latest edition of Outcast, a small but well-respected gay magazine, has had to be cancelled because the company that usually prints it say their staff have been intimidated and fear reprisal attacks if they go ahead with the printing.

The February edition of Outcast contained an editorial and a half-page article detailing irregularities in the registration at Companies House of Mardi Gras 2000 Ltd.: a commercial enterprise owned in part by gay press barons Kelvin Sollis, David Bridle, and Tony Claffey.

Following the appearance of this article, solicitors Mischon de Reya acting for Chronos Publishing Limited, publishers of the Pink Paper and Boyz, wrote to Outcast’s Internet Service Provider, NetBenefit PLC, fearing that Outcast might publish something defamatory in a future article that might be published on their website.

On the 29th March at 4 p.m., Outcast received a letter from NetBenefit, warning that: “we advise you that we will suspend your website with effect from 6 p.m. today unless we receive from your solicitors written assurance that the entire content of your website does not contain any defamatory material”. After such impossibly short notice, NetBenefit then shut Outcast’s website down at 7 p.m..

Outcast has now been forced to move the content onto a server in America, (operating via the original URL of www.outcastmagazine.co.uk).

Outcast has traditionally printed provocative articles that challenge the ‘gay scene’ and the ‘pink pound’ economy. It has published controversial articles by writers including Ken Livingstone MP, Peter Tatchell, Mark Simpson, Emma Butcher, and Paul Burston. This originality and independence have led to it being attacked by mainstream gay titles, most of which print only a narrow, highly commercial and ‘London-centric’ view of gay life.

OutRage! condemns the bullying tactics that have been used to gag Outcast and censor free speech. It would be serious enough if these tactics were being used by homophobes to silence a gay magazine: but for a powerful gay company like Chronos to be resorting to these depths indicates very strongly that they have something to hide.

We don’t believe that Outcast has done anything wrong. Their articles are checked by David Price (a leading libel lawyer who defended Scallywag magazine against John Major): and they have never been taken to court over any issue in the past. If they are guilty of anything, it is of knowing too much about how the gay establishment works ‘behind the scenes’, and daring to tell their readers the truth about it.

Statement by NetBenefit, 6-April-2000

Outcast, a customer of NetBenefit’s web hosting services, recently claimed that NetBenefit had attempted to censor Outcast. NetBenefit rejects this.

NetBenefit does not censor any web site it hosts. NetBenefit is happy to host a web site such as Outcast – Outcast was accepted as a NetBenefit customer without question. NetBenefit will continue to support customers who seek to use the web to publish their views, whatever views they espouse, provided they keep within the law and do not expose NetBenefit to unacceptable risks which are clearly spelled out in NetBenefit’s terms of business.

NetBenefit has been advised, following the case involving Demon and Laurence Godfrey, that we are obliged to review the content of a web site once we have received a warning that potential defamatory material is expected to appear on it and to act very quickly if potentially defamatory material is found. This applies to all Internet hosting companies operating under English law. We received advice that Outcast actually had on their web site material that was potentially defamatory. NetBenefit had no choice but to take action to avoid an unacceptable risk of being drawn into one or more costly legal disputes which were not of its own making but in which NetBenefit, merely a provider of web space, could be held liable to the same extent as someone who uses that web space to publish a defamatory statement. The Demon case has shown this to be a real risk for providers of web space and ISPs in the UK.

NetBenefit was entitled under the terms of business Outcast accepted, to suspend Outcast’s web site without notice, but instead NetBenefit gave notice before suspending Outcast’s web site and sought strong assurances from Outcast: specifically an assurance from a lawyer about the then current content of the site and Outcast’s assurances about its arrangements for future content. Outcast responded to NetBenefit, acknowledging NetBenefit may be liable for any defamatory content Outcast publishes. Outcast failed to confirm its existing content was not defamatory, and indicated Outcast is not in a position financially to have its content checked by a lawyer but gave no assurance that future content would not be defamatory. Outcast alleged the suspension of their web site was censorship and gave an ultimatum demanding the lifting of the suspension. Outcast’s response therefore contained no assurances whatever and NetBenefit declined to reinstate access to the web space, which Outcast since decided to relocate.

We recognise Outcast is in the business of publishing and so understands these issues. We would invite Outcast to campaign on the real issue: the need for a change in the law to allow Internet hosting companies, like NetBenefit, to provide the service Outcast and others are seeking.

Terry Connell – A tribute

Terry Connell, 57, died from a heart attack on Saturday, 25th March: just hours after being discharged from hospital after having suffered another heart attack a week earlier.

Terry was the driving member of the Bolton Seven, who championed the cause of gay equality when they were prosecuted under the U.K.’s discriminatory sex laws. His courage and unwavering tenacity in fighting the case through the courts were a living example of Gay Pride at its simplest and noblest.

His hearing at the Court of Appeal, (heard separately from that of the other six, owing to the untimely illness of the defending barrister), was rejected in a mockery of justice on the 5th March, 1999. It was characteristic of Terry that his unhesitating response on hearing the verdict was: “Well, now we go on to Europe”.

Terry Connell – A tribute

by Ray Gosling

Terry was a quite extraordinary good man in life, in gay life — he was a living antidote to the stereotype straights often have. He was neither a limp-wristed Julian-Sandy, nor some overbutch leather queen. He was normal — a fan, fanatic loyal, true and regular supporter of Bolton Wanderers because he liked football. He believed in it. Football. As he liked his flat cap. He liked company and pubs, but Terry didn’t drink alcohol. He was T.T. by choice. He didn’t mind you smoking, but he didn’t. He didn’t swear, but didn’t mind if you did. At first I thought because of his name he must be Roman Catholic and of Irish ethnicity but he wasn’t. He was Lancashire English, and wasn’t a Christian believer — and yet in the practice of life Terry Connell was a great New Testament man — loyal: never let a pal down: selfless and forgiving — though he would always speak his mind. It was his opinion and you were entitled to differ. And he’d respect you. Respected all men. But he expected you to respect him. That’s what so incensed Terry at the prosecution of himself and the lads –particularly the lads on the Bolton Seven video– it was gross indecency –the prosecution was– an invasion by The State into the privacy of the messy intimate embarrassing bits of lads’ lives at an age when you do go a bit giddy because you don’t know what you are exactly. As the trial judge Michael Lever expressed it quite correctly: “It was young men tipsily experimenting with sex”.

Terry was adamant. No harm. No force. The harm, the force was with the prosecution of what should have been left in privacy.

Terry was well known in Bolton gay ciircles and well respected. He was a frequenter of The Church, the town’s main gay pub. And he ran disco sometimes. He didn’t go cottaging, though he understood those who did and saw no harm in it. He wasn’t a chicken chaser, though he had a good eye to a pretty youth, he wasn’t at all predatory. He liked young people –a lot– and like the best of male gays have so often been, he was generous, genuine, kind, affectionate and a good ear: enormously supportive and long suffering and never pushy to teenagers he befriended. He well understood, instinctively, the terrifying pressures young poor white boys face today — from the power of girls: the lack of proper jobs of craft and pride and good wages; the loss of esteem; the pervasiveness of drugs. He’d help in the best possible ways, weaning lads off drugs and into work — and of course football. He was a very proper Bolton guy. He worked himself –night shifts in the bakery– and gave his all to the lads he befriended: for next to no sexual favours in return — because he enjoyed their company free of favours, to help them grow through their difficulties — and he did. He was quite lovely: caring — and fun — and then he got hauled in by police and through the courts at vast expense to the public purse and all that video had on it was some afternoon very mild malarky, not an orgy of the depraved. Not at all.

He was appalled at the prosecution. He could never admit any wrong had happened because it hadn’t. All the lads were over age –well, Craig was seventeen and a half– and they freely took part. And were they in an heterosexual group, or lesbian, they could not have been brought to court. No charge. A law just to prosecute male gay behaviour. What had been videoed was right mild, gentle, innocent, silly –embarrassingly so– a joke as much as anything, just fooling around. Why on earth the prosecution was let go ahead — Common Sense was not in it. Just because the party had amateurly videoed themselves and one in the party had copied it and kept the copy — silly boy. Not that Terry had kept his — that tape long ago had been reused by him to record more precious soccer. Oh, he had his proportions, Terry Connell.

But many of us if charged with such open-and-shut evidence on camera of clearly legally definable ‘indecent acts’ would have in embarrassment said ‘guilty’ and skulked off and hid. But not Terry. He was outraged. “Why,” he said to me when I first met him, “is Prince Charles not being prosecuted for his adultery?” There’s Bolton logic there — aye: fair do’s.

And it takes guts to go not guilty.

“It’s what I am — GUILTY of being human: not guilty of any crime.” So he carried on working — and walking the streets and held up his head. A very courageous man and when he spoke at public meetings of his indignation at this unjust happening — to gay groups as he did eventually all over the country, they just loved him. He was a great speaker on the stump — of a kind as’d make any Bolton man proud. He was from the heart and blunt. Terry Connell –and sometimes he wouldn’t take his flat cap off– he was a natural performer with his strong ‘Fred Dibnah’ Bolton accent: his clear voice: his determinations: his indignation and his chuckles of laughter. In London particularly he was quite a hero.

He’s died sudden — before his time. It’s a real tragedy — he had a lot more to contribute in showing older people a role model in how to treat the young — open and honest, kind and giving of your time and being supportive. Particularly showing how the older gay man should behave towards the young. He had much to give — and to football: to social life: to the politics of sex, the law – and ageism.

There will be many circles in Bolton that will be very sad. He will be greatly missed: not least by Craig. But his example of courage and patience, and laughter: the example of his life should inspire us. I’m sure it will and into the next generation and into history. A great man has gone.

Thank you Terry. Terry Connell: thank you.