Make it Legal

19720901-14Hullo there. Nice to meet you. A few questions – okay?
Sure: go ahead.
You are over 21?
Oh yes; want to see my teeth?
No, your birth certificate. Thanks. Yes, that seems all right. Now, then. You do consent?
Oh yes — indeed.
Fine. And we are in private here aren’t we? I mean, you’re not with a mate who’s going to turn up and watch?
Dear me no: I’m on my own.
Good. Well, now. You’re not from Scotland, are you?
Never been there.
Nor from Ulster?
Certainly not!
Anything to prove it? Driving licence, insurance card, or such like?
Here you are.
Ah — thanks. We’re making progress. Now: you’re not in the army, I take it?
Oh, no.
Navy?
Sorry I can’t oblige.
Air force?
Neither.
Merchant Navy, possibly?
No, no.
Not fuzz, I hope …
No!!
I see. Now what have I forgotten?
To ask me if we’ve met through a published ad.
Well, we haven’t, have we? It was our pal who phoned me about you, wasn’t it?
Sure it was.
Fine. Well, I think it’s all nice and legal, then – at least, I hope so.
Me too. Shall we get some gear off?
Let’s!

‘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.

Editorial

03-197207XX-02This, the third issue of Gay News, will be coming to you after we of the paper’s collective have been to the House of Commons to talk with members of Parliament who are sympathetic to and interested in the paper you are holding. The M.P.’s we are to meet, like many other valued members of society, have been outraged by the recent House of Lords decision that still allows it to be a criminal offence to ‘conspire’ to help relieve peoples isolation and loneliness. And so what if some of the people who use the personal column of this paper are only interested in a bit of fun or a form of excitement. Why should it be illegal for people to indulge in their fantasy’s and possibly contact someone they might not have otherwise met; with whom they might have an extremely rewarding sexual union., and maybe more.

                  THE EDINBURGH BOOKSHOP
                  57 George Street
                  Edinburgh 2
       27th June 1972.
Gay News Ltd.
19 London Street,
LONDON W.2 1HL.

Dear Sirs,

    We have received 25 copies of the first issue of your publication Gay News, although we did not order these.

    We have no intention whatever of displaying or selling this publication here, and if you cannot arrange to collect these copies from us, they will be dumped with other refuse in ten days's time.

        Yours faithfully,
    THE EDINBURGH BOOKSHOP LTD.

          A.L. RUSSELL.
            Director.

We apologise for continually referring, in Gay News’ pages, to this somewhat ‘queer’ legal situation, but whilst the threat of possible prosecution (because of the perpetuating of these archaic laws) hangs over this papers existence, we would like to remind you of the possible consequences of our actions and keep you informed of any further developments. In issue No. 4 we will tell you of the outcome of our visit to Our seat of Parliament. For now, keep the ads coming. We will print them.

The feedback from you, the papers readers, has so far been favourable. You seem to have been interested and amused by its contents. A particularly popular feature so far has proved to be The Biograph Reviews, although not to all, who accuse us of encouraging gays to perpetuate parts of gay life which seemingly aren’t acceptable to heterosexuals. Gay News and Grinspoon wish neither to encourage or discourage, just to inform in the manner that seems fitting. Another popular regular is the Het of the Month spot. Although we seem to be having quite a run of Hets; in the future we shall be featuring a few notable and ‘infamous’ Gays that hopefully are known and loved by many of you.

One criticism. which was shared by many of you was that issue No. 2 was slanted too much in one direction. This sometimes seems as if it will be inevitable, although we shall constantly strive to keep a fair balance on the news, features etc. that will go into each edition. Please carry on letting us have your reactions to Gay News, no matter how trivial they may seem to you, or how heavily critical they may be of us. Gay News, if it is truely to be your paper needs these reactions, as it does your news, articles and information.

                  W.H. SMITH & SON LTD.
                  Strand House, Portugal Street
                  London WC2A 2HS

D. Pollard, Esq.             24th June, 1972.
Gay News Ltd.
19, London Street,
LONDON W.2.

Dear Mr Pollard,

    Thank you for your letter of 23rd June enclosing a copy of your projected fortnightly newspaper GAY NEWS.

    I am afraid that I cannot feel that this publication would be a commercial proposition so far as W.H. Smith are concerned. As I am sure you will appreciate, one of our biggest problems is lack of display space and it is essential that such space as is available is given to titles which, in our opinion, will sell and sell quickly and, quite frankly, I do not think that GAY NEWS comes into this category.

    I must, therefore, refuse your offer of supplies for W.H. Smith and thank you for giving us the opportunity.

         Yours sincerely,

         H.A. Baron
         News Buyer & Administrative Manager
         News & Book Sales Department.

Some people may have found that this issue has taken slightly longer to reach them than will be usual. This is because we have been devoting a lot of time to expanding the outlets for Gay News. As you will see from the reproduced letter from W.H. Smith’s we have been having difficulty in finding a major distributor. Menzies, to date, have not even bothered to reply to the letter sent to them some time ago, asking them if they would be interested in making the paper more freely available. We take it that then answer is no too. I suppose we always knew that this would be the situation. So we have undertaken to distribute the paper ourselves as widely as possible. With your continued help, and the people who are at present stocking or finding new outlets, you should soon find it an easier task to find this newspaper. From this issue onwards we shall print a list of the outlets for Gay News both in and out of London. And to those of you who buy your copy in a gay pub that is friendly to us we will continue to interupt your conversations, drinking and general socialising, although not rudely we hope. Those of us who are selling Gay News in this way wish to thank you for your patience, understanding and encouragement.

Lastly, if there are any aspiring but good drag artists, who would possibly he attracted to turning a West London pub onto drag, could they please get in touch with the Gay Creations Department of Gay News. It would he helpful if you had your own amplifier and other necessary hits and pieces. We look forward to hearing from you, as we do from All of you.