The report of the Wolfenden Committe on homosexual offences and prostitution is a contraversial document. …
(No entry in GlasgowHerald index for 1969.)
From Our Parliamentary Correspondent: Westminster, Wednesday.
The Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution report chaired by Sir John Wolfenden Vice-chancellor of Reading University published today, recommend that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence. It was not the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens, nor to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour, except so far as this might be necessary to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what was offensive of injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against the exploitation of others, particularly those specially vulnerable.
Mr. James Adair, formerly Procurator-Fiscal in Glasgow_dissented_ saying that if sanctions of the law were removed, this would remove from police opportunities to carry out important preventive work. He said that his training and experience as a Procurator-Fiscal in Scotland may have coloured his view on the importance of such sanctions. Others member,appointed in 1954, emphasise that society and the law ought to give to individual freedom of choice and action in matters of private morality. There must remain a realm of private morality and immorality "which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law’s business." Police practice They recommended that "adulthood" should be taken as 21 years of age They called attention to variations in police practice in different parts of the country and to differences between England and Scotland. They recommended the maximum penalties for street offences be increased and progressively higher penalties for repeated offences, and imprisonment should be available as an ultimate sanction. They suggested that the possibility of introducing the formal system of cautioning as in force in Edinburgh and Glasgow. [Summary] (Full report on page 10 of the Glasgow Herald)
… John Wolfenden … guest of the BBC …Woman’s Hour yesterday. He said:- ``I know that a lot of peoplem mothers especially, have been worried about some of the recommendations. We have recommended that adult men who commit homosexual acts in private should no longer be subject to the criminal law. We do not think that men who behave like this are doing something that is right, but it does not follow that they should be sent to prison.''
``Recommending that homosexual behariour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence, the Wolfenden Committee on homosexual offencses and prostitution also recognise that to change a law which has operated for many years so as to make legally permissable acts which were formerly unlawful is open to critisism. …''
JOHN WOLFENDEN SPEAKS TO M.P.s’. From Our Political Correspondent ., Monday. ” Sir John Wolfenden, chairman: of the committee who recently: recommended changes in the law relating to homosexuality and Prostitution, spoke to a meeting of the: Conservative Party Home Affairs committee at the Commons tonight. He dealt fully with the report and particularly wh the fecomiaenes ion that homosexual practices between ``consenting males''. should be legalised. He said. that all the objections to this had. been fully examined by the committee, but that they saw no logical alternative: to their recommendation.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has instructed chief constables to seek his advice in future before bringing proceedings against consenting male adults who carry out homosexual acts in private. The directive is issued to achieve greater uniformity of enforcement of the law regarding private acts of homosexuality. Homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private has continued to be punishable despite the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee in 1957 that it should no longer remain a criminal offence.
At least one million men in Britain, and possibly a far higher number, are wholly of predominantly homosexual in temperament if not in overt behaviour, state the Homosexual Law Reform Society. They have issued a case summary in anticipation of a debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday when Lord Arran is due to call attention to the recommendations of the 1957 Wolfenden Committee on the law relating to homosexual offences. The committee recommended that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence. The society say their experience of the existing law, under which all homosexual acts are illegal even when committed by consent and in private, leaves no doubt that the failure to implement the Wolfenden Committee’s proposals result directly in a far greater amount of blackmail, robbery, petty theft, and other crimes of extortion and intimidation than would otherwise exist. ``In addition we are convinced that the present law deters a great many men — especially young men and adolescents — from seeking psychological medical treatment at the earliest possible moment when it would be most beneficial to them.'' Public opinion, it was sometimes said, was not really for reform. But a far greater weight of influential opinion had been expressed in favour of the Wolfenden proposals than against them. The report, which has been submitted to the Home Secretary, contains details of cases which, the society say, amply demonstrate that homosexual men cannot enjoy the same degree of protection as other citizens against blackmail, violence, robbery, and extortion until their legal status is altered. The law is responsible for a number of deaths of homosexual men every year, the society say, either by suicide or murder.
Since May 24, 1967 when the Church of Scotland General Assembly rejected a motion asking sympathy for homosexuals, not one homosexual man has applied to the Church for help and advice. The rejected motion is being brought back this year. The moral welfare committee recommends that the Assembly urge that: — (1) a more sympathetic understanding of the difficulties and handicaps of those suffering from homosexual tendencies is needed throughout the community, and regret the comparative lack of psychiatric and medical treatment available. (2) ministers show a special pastoral concern and care for those suffering from such tendencies. (3) it should be considered whether homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should continue to be an offence under the law of Scotland.
The Assembly rejected that in favour of a counter-motion which ``deplored the prevalence of homosexual practices as a source of uncleanness and deterioration in human character, and of weakness and decadence in the nation’s life.'' ….
``Some who have such homosexual tendencies have stated despairingly that they now consider the Church’s attitude is one of unfeeling condemnation.'' … Under the Sexual Offences Act homosexual acts in private between consenting males aged over 21 are no longer crimes in England and Wales. They are still crimes in Scotland.
The committee argued that until the law is changed any rehabilitation work in Scotland is doomed to failure, because practicing homosexuals will be too afraid and too guilt-ridden to make any approach. …
(Found in bound editions in Mitchell Library, Glasgow - page number not noted)
“MORAG ALEXANDER, a young Scotswoman at present living in Ontario, Canada, discusses the implications of the recently passed Criminal Amendment Act.
Early this summer in Canada the Criminal Code Amendment Act, which has been hailed both as the most enlightened measure introduced into the Commons in 20 years, and also for Canada, was passed by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Government. The bill was first introduced into the Commons during the Lester Pearson’s term of office, but it owes it existence mainly to Trudeau, who was minister of Justice in the Pearson Government.
The omnibus measure dealt with such varied matters as gross indecency, drunken driving, lotteries, abortion, homosexuality, and firearms control: yet despite the wide range the Government refused to allow the Bill to be spit up. The clauses which caused most opposition were those dealing with homosexuality and abortion, and at one stage it looked as if the Bill would be talked out of the Commons. The French Canadian Creditiste Party … talking for weeks … amendments … legalising homosexual acts between consenting adults and the liberalising of abortion laws, but the new House rules, limiting peaches to 40 minutes, defeated them. … the law does little to simplify the law for women seeking a legal therapeutic abortion.
When Trudeau, as Minister of Justice, first introduced his Bill … he was taking the kind of risk taken by Humfrey Berkely in Britain; Trudeau is Catholic and unmarried. He has always believed that the State has no business in the nation’s bedrooms, and tried to make it clear that the legislation he proposed would only ease the burdens of unfortunate people, not set Canada on a course of promiscuity and sodomy. Predictably, however, the whispers were whispered and the hate literature distributed: but the Bill was reintroduced by John Turner, Justice Minister of the Trudeau Government.
Turner refused to allow the Bill to be split to permit voting on individual issues, insisting that the will of Parliament must be expressed on the entire Bill. … Justice Minister favours annual reassessment of the Criminal Code … to keep the law closer to reality.
The Bible-belt of Saskatchewan will see the Act in the way one Creditiste … saw it…: abortion, infanticide, and divorce ruined ancient ROme, and now seem to be ruining Canada. Toronto the good would rather pretend that homosexuality does not exist. … for the vast majority of Canadians this Act is the first real sign of progress. By coincidence, on the same day as the Criminal Law Amendment Act was passed by the Commons a Senate Bill legislating contraceptives was passed. Until the passage of this Act the sale of contraceptive pills and devices and the giving of advice on contraception, even by doctors, were illegal.”