Seven gay men face jail sentences of up to five years because gay sex in this country is legal only in the privacy of your own home and only if two (and no more) consenting males are involved - or present

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Indy Lifestyle Online
In an era where the police perennially - and justly - complain of being understaffed and overworked, and the Crown Prosecution Service never seems able to make cases against racist killers, serial rapists and City embezzlers for lack of evidence, I for one would like to know how either body can justify blowing in excess of pounds 300,000 and God knows how many man hours chasing seven gay men through the courts for video- taping themselves having consensual, and communal sex together.

I'll explain. Seven gay men in Bolton recently had their reputations wrecked, their lives possibly ruined, and now face jail sentences of up to five years because recent advances in gay rights and heady police PR claiming to "no longer target victimless gay crime" led them to forget what many of us have also forgotten, or perhaps never knew, or wished away: that, according to the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, gay sex in this country is legal only in the privacy of your own home and only if two (and no more) consenting males are involved - or present. Two-plus is breaking the law, whether the extra joins in or simply spectates.

At this point acts previously deemed legal - anal, oral, masturbatory etc - instantaneously, magically become illegal, and those involved can be convicted of buggery and the hazily defined catch-all of "gross indecency", charges applicable to gay men and gay men only. These strictures do not cover comparable heterosexual sex, oh no. Heterosexuals can have anal sex without ever once "committing buggery", and have threesomes, orgies, no fear. Straight bedrooms are seldom gatecrashed. Heterosexuals are doing no harm.

Neither were the seven Bolton men, of course. Who were they hurting? Quick, quick. Time's up. The answer: no one. The videos weren't for commercial use. What they were doing the seven considered their own business. Their choice. You might find it either sordid or silly, and that's OK. You're not compelled to join in. Yet the fact that the seven willingly participated, and were either lovers, former lovers or friends, is no defence under the law. Nor is the fact that the 17-and-a-half-year-old involved gave his consent, and was having a good time.

How do we know? Because he's been absolutely clear. He isn't a "victim". He's a lucky dog, happy to stand by the other six, including the three men charged with having sex with a teenager under the age of gay consent. This despite (admittedly vague) undertakings that no such cases would be brought during the period the Government was preparing for a new vote on the age of consent and negotiating any number of outstanding cases at the European courts. Given promises made it would be interesting to know if Jack Straw and Tony Blair were either outraged or embarrassed, but who knows if they know, or if they care that each charge of gross indecency was upheld against the seven, as were all charges of "buggery", despite no complaints from members of the public, the nobility, or Royalty. But the seven had done themselves like kippers. The "evidence" was there on their own videos: the acts took place with more than two consenting males present.

And it simply isn't ... fair. The authorities didn't prosecute. They persecuted. And on a technicality made even more absurd by the fact that gay men - and straight men - are having sex in combinations of two upwards in clubs across Britain every night of the year. Where are the raids, the mass round-ups? There are none. Why? Because mass round-ups can become riots; there's strength in numbers. But seven? Seven can be picked on and picked off.

As can 15. As in the 15 gay men caught by Operation Spanner, content for 21 years to be left alone to practise their brand of S&M fun, but dragged into the spotlight - once more, with feeling - by letting a video tape go missing. Cost to the taxpayer? Reportedly pounds 2m, as the Spannered took their objections to the European Court of Human Rights. And what about the bisexual married couple the CPS tried to nail? Panting to go to trial, the other side's lawyers had to point out that the timecode on the (inevitable) video tape showed that more than a year had lapsed before charges had been brought. Getting the men on buggery was verboten. Then we'll get them for heterosexual anal sex, came the reply. No, you can't. Remember? Heterosexual anal sex isn't a crime. The CPS retired defeated, but probably not too disappointed. The couple had, after all, been "exposed".

Who makes these decisions? Who are they accountable to? Who did the police and CPS believe they're protecting? Me? You? Society? Hasn't society moved on?

Vindictiveness and high morality - those creepy bedfellows - don't require an excuse. Justice is blind and power requires nothing but its own smug exercise. Particularly when that power, used to bullying the previously despised, is daily reduced in its scope. Daily reduced, but still there.

Let's remind ourselves: gay men remain unequal, still liable to be treated differently - contemptuously - for no reason other than it's possible. Bear that in mind, and this: how do the police always manage to sniff out those incriminating videos? And why can't they exhibit the same skills and stick-with-it-ness when your home is burgled and all you want back is that little item you neglected to remove from the VCR?

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