Editorial

The protracted soul-searchings by Appeal Court judges over the Andy Warhol television documentary, followed by a series of raid on ‘pornographers’ by the police have put the question of what is obscene and what isn’t back into the centre of public attention – where it ought to stay for a good while longer so that it may be resolved.

The trouble is that the time it takes the law to make up its mind as to what is offensive – and is therefore the basis for a criminal charge – makes the court the wrong place for it to be decided whether something should be available to the public or not.

Publish and be Damned

The situation in this country now is that you can publish whatever you like – and the court will make its mind up later whether or not you are to be damned. And that situation is, quite obviously, not good enough.

Society must decide, once and for all, what it is going to allow. The choice, quite starkly, is between all or nothing.

If the answer is nothing, then we have opted for a society that doesn’t want to develop.

It’s a truism to say that standards have changed over the last so many years. The only reason they have changed is because society has developed organically. The moral censors and porn-breakers are usually fighting a rear-guard action.

To change organically society must accept new ideas constantly.

Stagnant Society

That’s why a society that refuses to allow certain things to be published, because they offend the standards of those judges and censors of our moral taste and behaviour, is a stagnant society. Judges and censors are usually ageing, middle-class and totally out of tune with the times they live in, not seeing outside their own cloistered world.

In fact, society has set up these censors precisely to halt change, without realising that it is the worst possible move as far as its own interests are concerned. By doing this, society has surely shut the door on an organic change.

A closed-doors society cannot keep itself away from the influences of the rest of the world.

Eventually, either those who censor will find the ground eroded from under their feet or the members of the society they control will refuse to be ruled by out-moded laws any longer.

Gang Warfare

These considerations are quite apart from the allegations made by the porn-swoop police that the ‘pornographers’ were involved in underworld gangster warfare. The gang allegations are more than a mere side-light on the whole subject of pornography. It is a product of the very system that censorship is intended to protect.

There will always be a need for what is described as ‘pornography’ and while society goes on denying people what they want to see, the porn-biz is going to be very big business, a high-profit business, where a contact magazine that sells wholesale for 10p retails to the public at £1. And it’s that sort of high-profit business that attracts the less honest to cash in on the great titillation bonanza.

By its absurd practice of attempting to clamp down on sexual publishing – and then only after the event – society builds up not evolutionary, but revolutionary pressures and opens the way for racketeers, who will, naturally enough, be prepared to join battle to carve themselves a monopoly out of this multi-million pound trade.

There’s one answer that relieves the law of the burden of wasted hours spent in finding out whether or not a girl’s breasts are offensive to a judge; a solution that avoids the massive costs of such court cases and destroys the semi-gangster sub-culture the underground porn-market creates. The answer to all these problems is quite simple: scrap censorship as we know it now.

New ‘Porn Laws’

Let people see anything they want to. They’ll get to see it anyway, by hook or from crook. Perhaps it would be necessary to extend the existing system of movie-censorship in a modified form to cover all areas of publishing.

The sanest way to censor would be for something that is to be published to be passed as fit for people under or over a certain age. Above that age anything should go. It would need a censorship board to deal with those areas of publishing not already affected by censors, but once a publisher had his work passed as fit for adults, he would be sure there would be no possibility of prosecution.

This, surely, is the only way to get out of a situation where we are beset by cranks on one hand and people (we are told are gangsters) on the other.

This could happen to you

Four Prisoners – Fourteen Charges

19720901-03
Keele Gay Lib Soc established itself early this year, and membership grew rapidly at first. The group soon noticed that the police (CID) began to show some passion for having hurried half pints in the same pub they used prior to meetings. And, coincidentally, they were ostentatiously watching the house of some gays living in the Potteries, also taking youths down to the station for questioning in the absence of solicitors, parents or guardians. It is hard to establish whether threats were actually used on these occasions.

The Gay Lib Soc were informed that the police had been assembling a dossier on all known gays in the Potteries, for the last eight months.

After consultation with the NCCL (National Council for Civil Liberties) a formal complaint was sent to the police and statements forwarded to NCCL. Shortly after this the first person was arrested (on May 31) and remanded in custody. Within about two more weeks, three more people were arrested and also remanded in custody. It is possible that an otherwise growing membership melted away because of these arrests, as the group shrank in size from this time.

The remands (at Risley) continued until about July 17, when they were released on bail – police objections that they would plant bombs, intimidate witnesses, and be the subject of ravenous lynch mobs, suddenly disappeared from the prosecutor’s repertoire.

The four came up for committal on August 7, and are due to appear in the Crown Court in about 2-3 months time. Here are the details.

  1. One person aged about forty is charged with nine out of twenty-six possible charges: three charges of buggery with minors (section 12(i) of the 1956 Sexual Offences Act); five charges of attempted buggery contrary to Common Law; one charge of indecent assault (section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act).
  2. A second person aged about thirty is charged with buggery with a minor (section 12(i) of the 1956 Act).
  3. The third (about thirty-five) is charged with attempted buggery and indecent assault.
  4. The fourth, aged about nineteen, is charged with indecent assault and ‘causing wasteful employment of police time by making a phone call to the effect that there was a bomb in Longton Police Station’.

(The latter charge omitted the fact that the police had used this as an excuse to go up into the house the boys were living in, and illegally arrest them). This boy had been summarily tried on the latter charge, and no sentence was imposed, as his lawyer so abjectly grovelled and apologised for his ‘silly act , etc.

All the four charged have straight-straight solicitors – one solicitor gets most of his bread as the local pig-prosecutor!

What remains of the Gay Lib group has tried to support the accused while on remand, and get together the beginnings of an alternative defence – but it looks like they will get a straight defence in the end – psychiatrists and all.

At least four other arrests have been expected (but this may be police panic-mongering) and the present case seems in some ways like a repeat performance of the 1968 Potteries Purge, which resulted in the murder of one boy (‘suicide’ according to the coroner) whilst on remand, and the incarceration of three others after dubious police practices (see Sunday Times 17/3/68 – ‘The Disturbing Case of the Consenting Teenagers’, page 2)

These people are still remembered in the local gay community.

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.