Help Safeguard Liberty

CIVIL LIBERTY: THE NCCL GUIDE,02-197206XX 7ed. Anna Coote and Lawrence Grant.
A Penguin Special, 50p.

This is a successor to the National Council for Civil Liberties’ Handbook of Citizens’ Rights but it much more extensive in its range. The NCCL is not anti the police, public services or the establishment. It is interested only in basic legal rights and is anti – as we all should be – the misuse and abuse of power. Unlike Canada and the USA, this country has no written constitution, no Bill of Rights. Consequently the rights of British citizens are often difficult to isolate and even harder to assert. Vigilance is required to safeguard liberty, but can only be based on knowledge.

This 356 page guide sets out the legal rights of British citizens in simple terms. Unfortunately, as the editors point out, too often one may only find out what one can do by studying the lists of what one cannot do. The most sensitive areas (racial discrimination, drug use, rights on arrest and court procedure) are thoroughly covered, but the guide also includes valuable chapters on the law and the motorist, the consumer, the landlord and tenant. There are sections devoted to children, to education, to sex and to marriage. The theoretically law-abiding citizen who will never be searched on suspicion of carrying drugs or discriminated against through colour or sex, will find much to concern him. The distinguished list of contributors have been resolutely fair: anomalies in the law (different rights for a husband and wife, for a girlĀ of 16 and a boy of 16 for example) are quietly pointed out and case-histories are included where relevant. The full text of the European Convention of Human Rights, which the United Kingdom signed in 1950 but the provisions of which have yet to be incorporated into the ordinary law of the land, is published as an appendix.

No Freedom to Love

“There is a sense in which all law is nothing more nor less than a gigantic confidence trick. Law is not enforceable at all if a sufficient number of people disregard it, and this is true of all laws.” Quinton Hogg

01-197205XX 8Laws which interfere with the individual’s sexuality and sexual expression will only continue to exist so long as we allow it- the will not be changed FOR us. Gay News intends to campaign for changes, since these matters are not, nor should they be, a realm in which legal controls belong. We welcome the stand taken by the Quakers in calling for the age of consent to be lowered to 14, but take the view that the law has no place in anyone’s sex life, and therefore the best sex laws are no sex laws at all: that would make us all equal, and leave no room for the suppression of any minority.

If you are a gay man, you cannot legally have sex before your 21st birthday, but if you’re a gay woman, or a heterosexual you can do so as soon as you are 16. The law is intended to prevent adolescent boys from being seduced by older men. They are apparently trusted not to succumb to a woman of any age against their own will, or if they do, it’s only a private misdemenour, not a criminal offence. It presumes that he couldn’t say no. But they can be prosecuted for seducing one another. Confused yet?

…Obscenity laws exist to repress normal sexual desires which are somehow, in law, equated with depravity. N.C.C.L. Guide to Civil Liberty

The law reflects the traditional male attitude to gay men – on the surface, we are despised, within, we are feared. Because within themselves they see us – their own heavily controlled love and desire for their own sex – and they fear.

The 1967 Act does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland – the law remains as it was in both these areas.

Sexual Offences Act 1956: section 32: “It is an offence for a man persistently to solicit or importune in a public place for immoral purposes.”

When the act was passed, this section

And remember… “Law is not enforceable at all if a sufficient number of people disregard it, and this is true of all laws.”

MEANT a man pimping for a woman. The law is almost never used in that sense, but to stop you picking up a guy you fancy whenever and wherever you may see him. It is never used to stop a man picking up a woman, even if he is offering her money for her services. She is in the wrong then.

Maximum penalties for some acts committed by older men with minors were increased by the 1967 Act.

Policemen can close down our pubs and clubs, and raid our parties more or less at will, if we are not behaving like heterosexuals. Because they have a duty to “preserve the peace”. Or if the backhander from the owner isn’t enough.

Publication of advertisements for the encouraging of homosexual practises is at present an offence, depending on the outcome of the It appeal currently being heard by the House of Lords.

It doesn’t matter if you are all over 21 and consenting, if there are more than two of you, it’s illegal.

In short, you can’t pick up anyone except in a pub or club or party, but the police can still raid these at will. You can’t take a man under 21 to bed, and if you’re under 21, you just can’t, that’s all. You can’t place lonely-heart ads.

BUT… Gay News WILL carry small ads for as long as you wish to use them. It must surely be an individuals human right to choose the way he or she wishes to make contact.

BUT… Gay News feels that far too little is being done to campaign for the age of consent to be lowered to the logical level, 16, giving us parity with everybody else. It should only be a matter of time before the whole question of legally enforceable age of consent for anyone comes under review.

Since the Sexual Offences Act 1967 very little positive action has been taken to remove this obsolete law from the statute books. We hear that S.M.G. is still squabbling about what particular age limit to campaign for; it’s a nice discussion point in C.H.E. and as Warren Haig says in OZ 42, “If Gay Lib had a concern for all homosexuals it would actively campaign for this… but it doesn’t.”

If you are being persecuted in any way for being yourself, we are here to try to do something about it. Tell us and let’s try together.

Gay News WILL campaign for this reduction. But, more important still, we’d like to make our columns available to anyone involved in campaigning against this particular black mark on the statute book.