The Sexual Offences Bill

There were unsuccessful attempts in the House of Commons to implement legislation along the lines of the Wolfenden Report in 1960, 1962 and 1965.

Lord Arran’s Bill in the House of Lords was successfully passed in October 1965, although not without fierce opposition. Lord Montgomery of Alamein was belligerently, if wryly, opposed to “this most abominable bestiality”. He submitted an amendment proposing an age of consent of 80, as “at least one has the old-age pension to pay for any blackmail.”

Exhibition banners
Humphry Berkeley’s attempt to introduce a similar Bill into the Commons in 1966 was scuppered by the general election in the Spring in which he lost his seat.

Reintroduced by Leo Abse, with Government support principally from the Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, the Bill was finally passed in an all-night sitting in the House of Commons in July 1967.

Its principal achievement was the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adult males over 21, in England and Wales. Various amendments were made to the Bill during its progress through parliament, and ultimately Scotland, Northern Ireland, the armed forces and the merchant navy were excluded from its remit.

Consenting acts could only take place "in private" – a stipulation open to strict interpretation and stringent enforcement. It further restricted consenting acts – they could take place in the presence of no more than two people, only on private property and behind a locked door.

Lord Arran‘s speech on the victory of his Bill passing – and his plea for homosexuals to resist "flaunting" - was widely quoted in the press, but was it to be adhered to ... ?

Next page: 5. The aftermath of the Act

No comments: