Sexual Offences Act 1967

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Sexual Offences Act, 1967
Lang titleAn Act to amend the law of England and Wales relating to homosexual acts.
Chapter1967 c. 60
Introduced biLeo Abse an Laird Arran
Territorial extentInglan an Wales
Dates
Royal Assent27 Julie 1967 (1967-07-27)
Ither legislation
AmendmentsSexual Offences Act 2003
Related legislation
Status: Amended
Text o statute as oreeginally enactit
Revised text o statute as amendit

The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is an Act o Pairlament in the Unitit Kinrick (citation 1967 c. 60). It legalisit homosexual acts, on the condeetion 'at thay gied consentment, an war in private atween twa men who had attainit the age o 21. The act ainlie applee'd tae Inglan an Wales. The law wes extendit tae Scotlan bi the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 an tae Norlan Airlan bi the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

Backgrund[eedit | eedit soorce]

Homosexual activity atween men hadnae bin legal fur yeirhunners. There wes never an explicit ban on homosexual activity atween women.[1] In the 1950s, there wes an increase o prosecutions against homosexual men[2] an a wheen o weil-kent figures haed bin convictit. The govrenment set ap a buird led bi John Wolfenden tae consither the laws on homosexuality. In 1957, the committee furthset the Wolfenden report, whilk recommendit the decriminalisation o homosexual activity atween men abuin the age o 21. The position wes summarisit bi the committee as follaes: "unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law's business." Houever, the govrenment o Harold Macmillan didna act upon its recommendations, due tae fears o public ootcry.[3]

In 1965, a wheen o politicians sponsorit a Sexual Offences Bill, a private member's bill whilk drew heavily upon the findins o the Wolfenden report. The key sponsors war Humphry Berkeley, a Tory MP, Leo Abse, a Labour MP, an Laird Arran, a Tory peer. Bi that yeir, public opeenion haed shiftit in fauvour. A 1965 opeenion poll commissionit bi the Daily Mail foond that 63% o respondents didna believe that homosexuality shuid be a crime while ainlie 36% gree'd, even tho 93% gree'd that homosexual men war "in need of medical or psychiatric treatment."[4]

Legislation and debate[eedit | eedit soorce]

Bi 1965, the feck o o MPs in the Hoose o Commons war forby sympathetic tae chyngin the law. Berkeley's bill passt a seicont reidin 164—107 in Februar 1966.[5] Its passage wes interruptit bi the dissolution o Pairlament fur the 1966 general election. Berkeley lost his seat, but the election increasit the number o MPs who war likely tae support the bill.[3] Abse becam the bill's main promuiver an he re-introducit the bill.[6]

Bi 1967, the govrenment o Harold Wilson wes shawin support fur the bill. The decriminalisation o homosexuality wes yin o multiple liberal social reforms tae be passit unner Wilson's 1966-70 govrenment an the wider muiv taewarts a "permissive society".[7] Ither reforms o the era includit the legalisation o abortion in Great Bretane the same yeir, the relaxation o divorce laws an the abolition o theatre censorship an caipital punishment.[8] These reforms cam aboot acause o a wheen o separate campaigns benefittin fae growin public support an Labour's lairge majority, raither than fae central govrenment leadership.[8]

The proposal legalisit acts atween twa consentin adults in private. It didna applee tae the Merchant Navy or the Airmt Forces, nor tae Scotlan an Norlan Airlan. As wi the Wolfenden report's owerture, the bill set the age o consent fur homosexual activity tae 21, five years heicher than fur heterosexual activity. It didna delete the offences o buggery an gross indecency. Men could still be prosecutit fur these offences gin their actions didna meet the strict requirements o the bill.

At the time, maist proponents o the bill didna condone homosexuality, but instead argied that it wes na inower the responsibility o the criminal law tae penalise homosexual men, who war awready the object o ridicule an derision. The comments o Roy Jenkins, Hame Secretary at the time, capturit the govrenment's attitude: "those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives" (quotit durand parliamentary debate bi The Times on 4 July 1967).

Baith the major parties alloued a conscience vote. Labour an Leeberal members war maistlins in favour, while Conservative members war maistlins opposit. The divide cut throu party ranks, wi Margaret Thatcher an Enoch Powell amang the conservative members votin in favour. The coalition in favour o the bill wes later descrieved as "a combination of Gaitskellites and future Thatcherites."[3] The bill wes forby supportit bi the senior leaders o the Kirk o Inglan, includin Michael Ramsey, the Airchbishop o Canterbury.[7][9]

Accordin tae gay activist Peter Tatchell, dissent again the bill could be summit ap bi the Yerl o Dudley's 16 Juin 1966 statement that "[homosexuals] are the most disgusting people in the world... Prison is much too good a place for them; in fact, that is a place where many of them like to go—for obvious reasons."[10][11]

Legacy[eedit | eedit soorce]

In BBC History, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite scrieved "This was a hugely important moment in the history of homosexuality in Britain — but it wasn't a moment of sudden liberation for gay men — and nor was it intended to be." Yin parteecular important consequence wes the increasit freedom o semmlie fur gay richts groups, heidmaist tae an increase in gay richts activism in the 1970s. Conversely, there wes a clampdown on the homosexual activities that warna protectit bi the law in the decade efter prosecutions fur gross indecency involvin males treblit.[12][13]

Na avisandum o the issue o male homosexuality in statutory law teuk place in Inglan an Wales till the late 1970s. In 1979, the Hame Office Policie Advisory Buird's Wirkin Pairty report Age o Consent in relation tae Sexual Offences recommendit that the age o consent fur homosexual acts shuid be 18. This wes rejectit at the time, in part due tae fears that further decriminalisation wad serve ainlie tae encourage younger men tae experiment sexually with ither men, a choice that some at the time claimit wad place such an individual outwith wider society.

The law wis extended tae Scotlan in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, which teuk effect on 1 February 1981.[14] As a result o the 1981 European Coort o Human Richts case Dudgeon v. United Kingdom, the law wis extended to Norlan Airlan in the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

Amendments[eedit | eedit soorce]

  • The age o consent o 21 fur homosexual males set bi the 1967 act wes reducit tae 18 bi the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 efter an attempt tae equalise the age o consent with that o the heterosexual age o consent o 16 introducit as an amendment bi the then Tory MP Edwina Currie narraelie failit. This law forby extendit the definition o rape tae include male rape; till then the latter haed bin prosecutit as buggery.[15]
  • In 2000, the Pairlament Acts 1911 an 1949 war invokit tae ensure the passage o the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 whilk equalisit that age o consent at 16 fur baith homosexual an heterosexual behaviours outthroch the UK.
  • The privacy restrictions o the law meant that while twa men cuid hae sex, a third person could na participate in the sex or even be present, as gyely as that the twa men could na have sex in a hotel. Thir restrictions war cawed ower in the European Coort o Human Richts in 2000.[16]
  • The Sexual Offences Act 2003, tho subjeck tae some controversy, cawed ower the wye sexual offences are dealt with bi the police an courts, replacin provisions in the Sexual Offences act 1956 as weil as the 1967 act. The offences o gross indecency an buggery war repealit fae statutory law. As a result o the 2003 act, the vast majority o the 1967 act has bin repealit.

References[eedit | eedit soorce]

  1. "The 1967 Sexual Offences Act: a landmark moment in the history of British homosexuality". BBC History magazine. 14 Julie 2018. Retrieved 23 Apryle 2020.
  2. Higgins, Patrick (1996). Heterosexual Dictatorship: Male Homosexuality in Postwar Britain. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-1-85702-355-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  3. a b c "There's nowt so queer as folk". The Daily Telegraph. 21 December 1996. Archived frae the original on 3 Januar 2020. Retrieved 3 Januar 2020. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "telegraph-review2" defined multiple times wi different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "telegraph-review2" defined multiple times wi different content
  4. "The passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act". The National Archives. 24 Julie 2017. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. "Sexual Offences Bill (1966)". House of Commons. Historic Hansard. 11 February 1966. c872. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  6. Patricia Brent and Leo Abse (20 December 1966). "Why should homosexuality be decriminalised?". BBC Archives. Archived frae the original on 18 August 2011.
  7. a b Laura Monica Ramsay (Januar 2018). "The Church of England, Homosexual Law Reform, and the Shaping of the Permissive Society, 1957–1979". Journal of British Studies. 57 (1): 108–137. doi:10.1017/jbr.2017.180.
  8. a b Thorpe, Andrew (2001). A History Of The British Labour Party. Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-333-92908-7.
  9. "Ramsey, (Arthur) Michael, Baron Ramsey of Canterbury (1904–1988)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. Cite has empty unkent parameters: |HIDE_PARAMETER15=, |HIDE_PARAMETER13=, |HIDE_PARAMETER21=, |HIDE_PARAMETER30=, |HIDE_PARAMETER14=, |HIDE_PARAMETER17=, |HIDE_PARAMETER32=, |HIDE_PARAMETER16=, |HIDE_PARAMETER25=, |HIDE_PARAMETER33=, |HIDE_PARAMETER24=, |HIDE_PARAMETER9=, |HIDE_PARAMETER3=, |HIDE_PARAMETER1=, |HIDE_PARAMETER4=, |HIDE_PARAMETER2=, |HIDE_PARAMETER28=, |HIDE_PARAMETER18=, |HIDE_PARAMETER20=, |HIDE_PARAMETER5=, |HIDE_PARAMETER19=, |HIDE_PARAMETER10=, |HIDE_PARAMETER38=, |HIDE_PARAMETER31=, |HIDE_PARAMETER29=, |HIDE_PARAMETER11=, |HIDE_PARAMETER26=, |HIDE_PARAMETER6=, |HIDE_PARAMETER8=, |HIDE_PARAMETER7=, |HIDE_PARAMETER23=, |HIDE_PARAMETER27=, and |HIDE_PARAMETER12= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. Bedell, Geraldine (24 Juin 2007). "Coming out of the dark ages". the Guardian (in Inglis). Retrieved 27 Januar 2018.
  11. "Sexual Offences Bill Hl (1966)". House of Lords. Historic Hansard. 16 June 1966. Retrieved 27 January 2018
  12. Europe in The Pink by Peter Tatchell
  13. Heterosexual Dictatorship by Patrick Higgins, 1996
  14. "Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980". Written-Answers. Historic Hansard. 17 December 1980. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  15. "1995: First man jailed for male rape". BBC News. 9 Juin 1995.
  16. "HUDOC - European Court of Human Rights". hudoc.echr.coe.int. Retrieved 18 November 2016.

Soorces[eedit | eedit soorce]

  • Tatchell, P Europe in the Pink London: Gay Men's Press, 1995
  • The Times in Microfilm Facsimile Periodical Publications, London The Times 1967 (available in digital form via JISC)
  • Wolfenden, J (chair) The Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (cmnd 247) HMSO, 1958
  • Coming out of the dark ages, Geraldine Bedell, The Observer, 24 June 2007
  • Grey, Antony Quest for Justice, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1992

Fremmit airtins[eedit | eedit soorce]