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,

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!)



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.


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.