At a Defence of Literature and the Arts Society meeting on 19 February, Mr Jeffrey Simmons, Managing Director of W H Allen and Co, the publishers, said he had just been told that conspiracy charges had been brought against the publisher of an autobiographical novel about a bisexual male prostitute, “Street Boy, Swinging London” by Richard Green, and that the publisher, Mr David John Miller had been kept in custody overnight at City Road Police Station before being charged.
According to the Guardian (20 and 21 Feb) Mr Miller visited the police station on 29 January after hearing that the Serious Crimes Squad had visited his offices. “The policemen were reading this book and said it was pornographic. I was then put in a stinking cell and was left there for 18 hours.” The next morning he was charged not only with offences against Section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 but also with conspiring together with persons unknown to produce an obscene article. He was remanded on bail of £4,000.
The National Council for Civil Liberties has expressed alarm about the bringing of a conspiracy charge in these circumstances. Under Section 2 of the Act the only question at issue is whether the article is obscene in the opinion of the jury and motive is irrelevant. But with a common law conspiracy charge having been introduced, the prosecution could introduce evidence of the accused’s intentions and beliefs if they desired to do so.
The subject of the book may be significant, and Mr Simmons who has read it, thinks this is so, “the subject of male prostitution is obviously taboo” he commented. It is indeed notable that in both the recent major “conspiracy to corrupt public morals” trials – those of IT and OZ – the prosecution relied heavily upon the homosexual content of the material to bolster their case. Your reporter, who has also read the book, found it explicit in its sexual description but non-arousing (perusal failed to bring about a single erection) and moralistic in its tone – the “hero” is throughout anxiously careful to distinguish between those “healthy” mortals such as himself, who indulge in homosexual acts (whether for payment or not) for pleasure or out of a sense of comradeship without detracting from their heterosexual desires and performance, and the unfortunate “queers” who actually fall in love with other men and whom he despises for this. In spite of such an inadequate approach to the subject, it would be unfair to dismiss “Street Boy, Swinging London” as merely pornographic; it has a story line and contains some characterisation and descriptive passages which lift it out of the “mere smut” class. “A minor male Fanny Hill” would not be an unfair verdict.
In an excellent article in the current “New Law Journal” (22 Feb) a barrister, Mr Gordon H Scott, pertinently questions the efficacy or social usefulness of the current spate of obscenity prosecutions. It is high time, he says, that prosecutors and police stopped to ask themselves a series of questions before bringing such cases. These are:
(1) Is the prosecution necessary in the public interest?
(2) Has any substantial harm been done to an individual or to the public at large?
(3) Will the public be harmed if proceedings are not brought?
(4) What (if anything) will be achieved by commencing proceedings?
(5) Will the costs of this prosecution be out of all proportion to the offence?
It will be of interest to see how the authorities answer these questions with respect to “Street Boy, Swinging London”. Meanwhile Mr Miller has been charged and the Defence of Literature and the Arts Society is appealing for funds to support his defence. Contributions should be sent to DLAS, 18 Brewer Street, London W1.