Changing Sexual Offences

This originally appeared in BCN issue 60.

Proposed changes to the sexual offences legislation have been brought forward which have had a mixed reception as something of a ‘two steps forward one step back’ reform.

The Sexual Offences Bill will:
Repeal the current offence of buggery (Section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956)
Repeal the ‘privacy’ provisions which outlaw gay sex involving more than one person (Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967)
Repeal the current offence of gross indecency (Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956).
Introduce a new offence, outlawing sex acts in any public place, where the participants know that people who are not willing observers may be able to see them, regardless of the genders of the participants.

These reforms will only change the law in England and Wales, not Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Stonewall have responded by issuing an urgent plea for men who were placed on the sex offenders register because of convictions under the old ‘gay’ sex offences laws to contact them in confidence.

The organisation is planning to campaign to remove people convicted under the outdated laws from the register. Stonewall urgently needs to talk to people who are currently on the sex offenders register for cautions or convictions under ‘gay’ offences such as gross indecency.

Sacha Deshmukh, Stonewall’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs, said “If

the new Sexual Offences Bill passes successfully through Parliament, then several people will be on the sex offenders register even though their actions are no longer illegal. We are particularly keen to talk to people who were involved in incidents where one partner was between 16 and 18, or when both people involved were over 18.

“By drafting new sex offences legislation, the Government has made it clear that it believes the old ‘gay’offences to be outdated and unfair. We believe that people’s lives should no longer be blighted by the stigma of appearing on the sex offenders register when the actions that put them there are no longer criminal. But we won’t be able to campaign without people coming to talk to us, in confidence, with their experiences.”
If you are affected and would be willing to provide details of your experience in complete confidence, please contact Helen Marsh as soon as possible on 020 7881 9440.