Who Was Obstructing Who?

No Photographs ~ No Evidence

05-197208XX 2At approximately 11.20 pm on Saturday 12th August, 1972, Denis Lemon, a member of the editorial collective of Gay News, was arrested for allegedly ‘wilfully obstructing the passage of the footway of Wharfdale Street, London SW10’. He was released on £10 bail later that night, and appeared at Great Marlborough Street Magistrate’s Court on the morning of Monday 14th August. After pleading Not Guilty to the charge. Denis was remanded until Tuesday 22nd August. He applied for legal aid and was remanded on bail.

It is understood that Denis will be represented by a solicitor and will be calling a number of witnesses in his defence.

Wharfdale Street, SW10, is directly behind The Colherne public house in Old Brompton Road. After ‘closing time’ on the Saturday evening Denis had been acting in his official capacity as a Gay News reporter and had been taking a number of photographs of police action outside and in the nearby vicinity of the pub. After taking a number of photographs of the police directly outside The Colherne, he crossed to the opposite side of the road where he took a few more pictures, then moved to Wharfdale Street where he was arrested whilst trying to take a shot of a number of police officers ‘moving on’ a small group of people chatting in the im street.

Denis was active that evening as he was attempting to gather documented evidence of alleged ‘police harassment’ by members of the constabulary from the Chelsea Division of the Metropolitan Police Force.

Over the past few months it has become apparent to the Gay News editorial staff, from either information received at the paper’s office or personally witnessed by the members of the collective, that the level of police action outside The Colherne has been increasing. A number of people have been arrested on various occasions.

It has also been noticed that police dogs have been frequently used by the police whilst performing their duty outside the pub. This has seriously worried members of the general public as well as customers, and the use of particularly large groups of police, often exceeding 20 in number, has sometimes nearly led to unpleasant situations to say the least. Alleged too, by Colherne customers, is that unnecessary violence has been used by the police whilst performing this almost nightly ‘duty’.

Other, more serious allegations have also been made by people about this regular occurrence. Gay News is at present taking a number of statements from individuals, which in time will be handed over to the correct authorities.

Police officers who have been questioned about these activities at The Colherne have commented that they are in the area because of complaints from local residents and because of obstructions to the highway and footway. Parking on both sides of the busy road outside the pub in fact seems largely responsible for the highway being frequently congested. A report of the outcome of Denis’s hearing at the Magistrate’s Court will be in the next issue of Gay News. There will also be continuing reportage of future developments at The Colherne in Earl’s Court.


The editorial collective of Gay News would like to point out to the customers of The Colherne that they will only be taking photographs of the police and will try not to take recognisable shots of the pub’s patrons. Any photo that clearly shows the identity of either customers or the general public will have the faces blanked out if these pictures are used in Gay News or any other publication.

‘On All Fours…’

The Attorney General in The House of Commons

05-197208XX 2The legal position with regard to contact ads was clarified in a Commons adjournment debate on August 2:

“Prosecutors must carry out their duty. It is their duty to enforce the law,” Sir Peter Rawlinson, the Attorney General, spelled it out. “Prosecutors do not make the law. Very many people are very alive to any failure by the prosecution to enforce the law.

“But accordingly, if people produce advertisements by males or by females advertising their wares, calling for partners, reciting the terms upon which they will associate, describing their particular tastes or giving ways of communicating one with another, these at present are offences against the criminal law.”

Gay News wonders how this relates to lonely hearts ads in magazines like Time Out, and still more to the computer dating firms – what about the ads on the tube trains?

Referring to the International Times case in 1969, Sir Peter said “…the then Attorney General had to consider advertisements by males, the kind of advertisement that contained wording such as ‘Dolly Boy Seeks Sugar Daddy’ and so on. The then Attorney General”…had discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions and a prosecution was launched because it was held, and the courts affirmed, that publication of these male advertisements was on all fours with the Shaw case, which involved advertisements for female prostitutes.”

This was the celebrated Ladies’ Directory case in 1960, when a man called Shaw published a guide, with addresses and telephone numbers, in which Soho prostitutes bought space. He was convicted and Lord Simonds, giving judgement, said: “In the sphere of criminal law there remains in the Courts of Law a residual power to enforce the supreme and fundemental purpose of the law, to conserve not only the safety and order but also the moral welfare of the state, and it is our duty to guard it against attacks which might be all the more insidious because they are novel and unprepared for.”

Lord Reid, however dissented “There are wide differences of opinion as to how far the law ought to punish immoral acts which are not done in the face of the public. Parliament is the proper, and the only proper, place to settle that. Where Parliament fears to tread, it is not for the Courts to rush in…”

The noble Lord Reid has received a lot of support for this statement (see ‘Half A Loaf’ story in Gay News No.3), but Lord Simonds asked another question which forecast the I.T. case: “Would it not be an offence if, even without obscenity, such practices were publicly advocated and encouraged by pamphlet and advertisement.”

Some people, including the police and, apparently, the DPP’s department, seem to support Lord Simonds, as recent victimisation shows.

These statements were quoted by Mr William Hamling, MP (Woolwich West) who raised the matter in the House. Mr Hamling is a brave and trusted watchdog for the freedom of the press and the arts, and a witty attacker upon those who whitehouse (verb.act.).

Mr.Hamling went on to refer to the Attorney General’s reply to a Bernard Levin article in the Times, on the question of the assurances given in Parliament when the Sexual Offences bill was being discussed. “The Attorney General’s statement refers to assurances given in 1964, that publishers would not be prevented from pleading the defence of public good when charged with publishing an obscene article. The assurances given did not apply where the essence of the offence was incitement to commit homosexual acts rather than the publication of an obscene article

“… I should like to direct his (the A.G.) attention to the debate in another place when Baroness Wootton (proposing a Lord’s amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill) moved a new clause specifically on this matter of conspiracy. The new clause read: ‘Conspiracy. It shall not be an offence to conspire or attempt to commit a homosexual act which by virtue of this Act (the 1967 Act) not in itself an offence.’

“The noble Lady went on specifically to refer to the Ladies Directory case and said:

‘We are still a little disturbed by the possible consequences of the Ladies Directory case, and the words used in that case … (she quoted Lord Simonds, as above)… (he) is there referring to conspiracy in a rather wider sense than my amendment, which refers only to the conspiracy to perform the act as distinct from advertising or flaunting it.”

Lord Stoneham, replying to Baroness Wootton, gave some assurances, but Mr Hamling, and others, have doubts as to what these actually meant, and the point is crucial to our freedom. Mr Hamling: “This prosecution (I.T.) and this whole question of what assurances were given raise some very great difficulties about an Act which permits things to take place which some people may consider to be immoral or offensive in the deepest sense, and yet the law says that these acts arc legal and are permitted. The question arises as to how far reference to these acts may be regarded as a public affront. There are grave difficulties about this – about homosexuals meeting, about arrangements that homosexuals may make in order to meet, particularly bearing in mind other sexual acts between heterosexuals which may follow meetings which can be advertised and which nobody seems to worry much about.”

Well set out out, Mr Hamling! Sir Peter, concluding his reply, set out the opposing view equally clearly; “(The I.T.case) was a proper case under the criminal law, as I explained in the Shaw case … the jury convicted, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and the House of Lords upheld the conviction by four to one. There was in that case exactly what existed in the Shaw case, a public affront, namely the publication of advertisements by the persons seeking particular sexual services – in the Shaw case involving women and in the International Times case involving men.

”… I repeat, finally, that this being the law, it is the duty of the DPP, the police authorities and the Attorney General of the day to enforce the law as it is interpreted by the judges. It is their duty to see that that is done, and they must not be dissuaded from that because it may be the opinion of certain persons that the law ought to be changed.”

Not so much changed, as disregarded perhaps. I make no apology tor setting out the debate at such length – if we are to act constructively, we must be informed fully of the attitudes of the opposition.

It still seems, as Raymond Fletcher said on an earlier occasion, that the judges are trying to make the laws, whatever Sir Peter Rawlinson says about the omniscience of Parliament. We must note too, the equation of homosexual activities with prostitution (remember the Dangerous Doctor Rubens?), and the assumptions being made that all homosexual contact ads are for prostitution, while heterosexuals are not subjected to any such blanket condemnation.

She Found Out Too Late

05-197208XX 2Letter from an anonymous person to CHE

TO ALL HOMOSEXUALS

You are all so utterly vile, cause so much distress and unhappiness and are a complete disgrace to the human race. You should all be exterminated. I am not a crank but a mother with two wonderful children and we have suffered appallingly during the last three years, since one of your kind perverted my husband after 17 years of happy family life.

The best you can do is leave decent people in peace and I suggest you get a single ticket to the moon or better still to the planet Mars because that is farther away.

You are all so completely disgusting and revolting and your advertisement is an insult to all normal people.

YOU ALL ABSOLUTELY STINK.