Bolton 7

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.]

Bolton 7 – Support Terry Connell’s Appeal

Call for support outside the Court of Appeal

The Bolton 7 have appealed against the verdicts and sentences handed out in February 1998. Five of the sentences were reduced on 11th February 1999: but the appeal of Terry Connell has been postponed until 10:30 Friday, 5th March, [Court 8, Court of Appeal, The Strand, London WC2].

Terry was sentenced to 9 months (suspended for two years), placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register, and also charged £ 500 costs. As he himself points out, if the laws of this country didn’t discriminate against us, he wouldn’t even have been charged. The Seven, who now all have criminal records, were prosecuted for consenting gay sex in the privacy of their own homes.

Following the prosecution, Terry has become a dedicated gay rights activist. It is because he believes so strongly that our discriminatory laws are unjust that he is pursuing this appeal: if necessary, to the House of Lords or the European Court of Human Rights, (who ruled in October 1997 that Britain’s unequal age of consent is unlawful).

The case has been supported by OutRage! and Stonewall, (together with MP’s, bishops, and Amnesty International U.K. ). Supporters and well-wishers are invited to join a peaceful protest outside the court from 10 a.m.. [Tube stations: Holborn / Chancery Lane / Temple]

John Hunt of OutRage! stated 12 months ago: “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”.

With Terry’s appeal just two weeks away, Hunt added: “The failure last summer of Ann Keen’s age-of-consent amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill, (with opposition from the Lords expected again over the coming months), means that this is just as true today. Indeed, the Government’s allegedly well-intentioned but nonetheless ill-drafted and sadly misguided abuse-of-trust clauses in the current Bill will, if passed, send completely the wrong message both to the public and to future legislators.

“We must support Terry in his fight against discrimination. This appeal is not just about the age of consent, but also the unequal ‘privacy’ requirement: no more than two people present. Join the demonstration for the right to consensual sex in private”, Hunt urged.

Five of the Bolton 7 have sentences reduced

The Bolton Seven, convicted in January 1998 of gross indecency or buggery, had all been sentenced to probation or community service. On 11th-February-1999 the Court of Appeal cut the sentences because none of the five had previous convictions for sexual offences.

Probation orders for 12 months were substituted for Turner, Godfrey and Love, who had all been sentenced to 12 months’ probation and 100 hours’ community service. Moore had two years’ probation cut to a year; while Abdie’s 150-hour community service was replaced by a one-year conditional discharge.

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, gay sex is illegal when more than two persons take part or are present.

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, which aims to equalise the age of consent, is expected to reach the House of Lords in March or April. OutRage! and Stonewall are urging other gay groups and individuals to bring candles to a peaceful, dignified Vigil to support equality at Westminster, from 6-10 p.m. on the night of the Lords vote.

Royal Courts of Justice: 020-79.36.60.00

Terry is being represented by Janet Cragg:

Robert Lizar Solicitors,
159, Princess Road, Moss Side, Manchester. M14 4RE
Tel. 0161-226 2319; Fax. 0161-226 7985;
Email: 106475.3436@compuserve.com

Bolton 7 – Convicted but not jailed

Defence Campaign saved men from prison

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,
Manchester.
M22 4GZ

Bolton 7: Candlelit Protest at Westminster

100 Protestors Demand Repeal of Antiquated Antigay Laws

A hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Palace of Westminster at 7 p.m. on 23rd February, to protest at the prosecution of the ‘Bolton 7′ for consensual sex in the privacy of their own homes.

This prosecution, authorised personally by Dame Barbara Mills, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, has been estimated to have wasted half a million pounds of public money.

Terry Connell and Craig Turner with Chris from Stonewall, 56 KB

Although the defendants, convicted in January, escaped prison sentences owing to massive public support, (local, national, and international), they have still been scarred by the traumatic experience.

The protest was organised by Stonewall and supported by OutRage!, who assisted with publicising the event at very short notice.

After the peaceful demonstration, about 60 protestors crammed into a small room inside the Palace, where Angela Mason of Stonewall introduced several speakers:

Dr. Evan Harris, MP, (Lib. Dem.), who

  • stated that the State should have no rôle in people’s bedrooms in victimless situations,
  • drew parallels between the discrimination experienced by lesbians and gay men, and that experienced by ethnic and religious groups,
  • advised that now was the time to press not just for an equal age of consent, but for full equality;

Terry Connell and Craig Turner, (two of the defendants), who

  • acknowledged the enormous efforts of Alan Horsfall and Ray Gosling at the Bolton 7 Defence Campaign in Manchester;

and Peter Tatchell, who

  • exposed the abysmal record of over 30 MP’s who refused even to discuss the case, including two of the three Labour MP’s for Bolton.

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,
Manchester.
M22 4GZ

Bolton 7 – Protests grow louder

Seven Gay Men convicted for consenting sex in private

Protests are escalating against the conviction of seven men in Bolton, Greater Manchester, for consenting sex in the privacy of their own homes. The men will be sentenced on 20th February. The judge has warned that some may be jailed.

The Bolton 7 were convicted under the arcane ban on gay sex involving the presence of more than two persons, and three were found guilty of age-of-consent violations with a 17½-year-old.

These men have been prosecuted for victimless offences that apply only to gay men. None would have been arrested if their partners had been women.

The latest developments in the defence campaign are:

  • Dr. Evan Harris, MP, (Lib. Dem.), has tabled an Early Day Motion condemning the prosecution and calling for gay law reform;
  • the Bishops of Worcester and Edinburgh are urging that the men should not be jailed;
  • Brian Iddon, MP, (Lab., Bolton S.E.), has written to the judge asking for clemency and deploring the fact that two of the men have been forced to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for victimless acts with a 17½-year-old;
  • the prosecution was referred to the highest level, and went ahead with the knowledge of the office of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, and the endorsement of the Director of the Crown Prosecution Service, Dame Barbara Mills;
  • since the Bolton 7 case received publicity, there has been a slanderous whispering campaign (by the police ???) to discredit the men and to justify police/CPS zealousness, with false allegations of pædophilia and mutilation;
  • the anger in the gay community has forced Greater Manchester police to abandon a new initiative against homophobic violence, which was due to have been launched in Bolton;
  • the prosecution of these men is seriously undermining police attempts to build better relations with the gay community, with many Manchester gay campaigners urging a withdrawal from the police liaison forum;
  • Amnesty International is investigating the case, with a view to adopting the men as ‘prisoners of conscience’ if they are imprisoned;
  • the men’s solicitor has received 300 letters, from human rights groups all over the world, condemning the trial.

Over 200 people attended a protest meeting at Manchester Town Hall on 26th January; and 150 joined a candlelit “Vigil for Justice” outside Bolton Crown Court on 31st January.

The prosecution is in defiance of last October’s ruling by the European Commission of Human Rights that Britain’s unequal age of consent is unlawful.

OutRage! is urging that letters of support, donations, and offers to help organise the Bolton 7 Defence Campaign be sent to the men’s solicitor:

Janet Cragg,
Robert Lizar Solicitors,
159, Princess Road,
Moss Side,
Manchester.
M14 4RE

Tel. 0161-226 2319
Fax. 0161-226 7985
Email: 106475.3436@compuserve.com

Help save the Bolton 7 – Gay men convicted of consenting sex

Seven Gay Men convicted for consenting sex in private

OutRage! needs you to help us save the ‘Bolton 7′ from being jailed for consenting gay sex.

Seven men were convicted on 12th January for consenting gay sex in the privacy of their own homes in Bolton, north-west England. The offences came to light after police seized videos of the men having sex, which they had filmed for their own personal use.

All the men are either lovers, ex-boyfriends, or friends of friends.

“The ‘Bolton 7′ were convicted because more than two persons participated or spectated”, said David Allison. “Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, gay sex is illegal ‘when more than two persons take part or are present’. Equivalent heterosexual behaviour is not a crime.”

Three of the seven were also convicted of age-of-consent offences with a 17½-year-old teenager, (only six months below the gay age of consent of 18). By court order, the youth cannot be named. The case is set to become a cause célèbre in the run-up to the parliamentary vote on the age of consent.

The Bolton 7 were convicted before judge Michael Lever at Bolton Crown Court on 12th January, 1998. The date for sentencing has now been deferred to the 20th February. Lawyers fear the three men convicted of sex with the 17½-year-old — Terry Connell, 55, (who was the teenager’s lover at the time), Norman Williams, 32, and Jonathan Moore, 20 — could face imprisonment for up to five years. All three have had to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register: including Jonathan, who is less than three years older than the youth aged 17½.

“The Sex Offenders’ Register is supposed to be for rapists and child abusers”, said Peter Tatchell. “Two of the men have already had their homes trashed or fire-bombed, and one has been assaulted. All are living in fear of vigilante attacks.

“The men’s conviction for sex with a 17½-year-old is in defiance of last year’s European Commission of Human Rights ruling that Britain’s unequal age of consent (18 for gay men, 16 for heterosexual and lesbian sex) is unlawful, and takes place just months before Parliament is expected to lower the gay age of consent to 16″, noted Tatchell.

“The number one priority is to stop these men being jailed”, said David Allison. “We need people to write letters opposing a prison sentence, which the Bolton 7’s solicitor, Janet Cragg, can present to the judge when the case comes up for sentencing in February. Mobilising public opinion to support clemency is the best way we can help these men. Please write a letter today and help us save them from jail.”

OutRage! is urging that letters of support, donations, and offers to help organise the Bolton 7 Defence Campaign be sent to the men’s solicitor:

Janet Cragg,
Robert Lizar Solicitors,
159, Princess Road,
Moss Side,
Manchester.
M14 4RE

Tel. 0161-226 2319
Fax. 0161-226 7985
Email: 106475.3436@compuserve.com

A Bolton 7 Defence Campaign has been launched.

  • Over 200 supporters attended a protest meeting in Manchester Town Hall on the 26th January.
  • Dr. Evan Harris MP has tabled an Early Day Motion criticising the prosecution.
  • Amnesty International is investigating the case, and will probably adopt the men as ‘prisoners of conscience’ if they are jailed.
  • Two Bishops have written to the court, urging that the men are not imprisoned.

A Candlelight “Vigil for Justice” is planned for Saturday, 31st January from 5-7 p.m. on the steps of Bolton Crown Court, Blackhorse Street, (near the bus station).

The same evening, a petition will be launched. It condemns the prosecution of the seven gay men for consenting sex in the privacy of their own homes, and calls for them not to be jailed.

Some of the men will be available for interview on the day.

Please send a message condemning the prosecution and urging that the men are NOT jailed, to the defence solicitor, Janet Cragg, so she can present them to the judge BEFORE he passes sentence on 20th February.