Amnesty International takes up case of men in sex sessions

SEVEN men who are to be sentenced at Bolton Crown Court today for taking part in group sex sessions in a private home will be adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International if they are jailed.

Amnesty's highly unusual step reflects international outrage about the case of the so-called Bolton Seven. The human rights organisation rarely adopts prisoners-of-conscience in this country, and there are none in British jails at present.

The men were convicted last month of offences including buggery and gross indecency after police seized video tapes on which they had recorded themselves. Sex between men is illegal if more than two people are present.

The parties took place at the home of one of the defendants, Norman Williams. All the men were over the age of consent, except one, who was six months short of 18. All, including the youngest, were willing participants.

The Bolton case has become a cause celebre in the gay community, and the men have received more than 400 letters of support from individuals and human rights groups around the world, including Australia, South Africa and Romania.

An Early Day Motion has been tabled by the Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris, who asked the Attorney-General a question in the Commons yesterday about issues relating to the case.

The Bishop of Edinburgh, the Most Rev Richard Holloway, is among eminent figures who have written to the judge, Michael Lever QC, urging him to "dispense justice with mercy".

The offences carry prison sentences of up to five years, and the judge has warned that he is inclined to jail at least some of the seven. Williams, 33, and, Terry Connell, 55, are regarded as most vulnerable because they were filmed with the 17-year-old, who cannot be named.

However, campaigners point out that the higher age of consent for gay sex has already been declared a breach of human rights by the European Commission, and that Westminster will almost certainly vote to lower it to 16 later this year.

The 17-year-old, who has been convicted of gross indecency despite his legal status as a minor, has submitted a statement to be used in mitigation today. In it, he says: "No one seduced me or pressed me to do anything against my will. I hope the judge will recognise that our relationships were harmless."

Sources close to the case say that police originally raided Williams' house in the mistaken belief that he was part of a paedophile ring.

It has also emerged that Dame Barbara Mills, the Director of Public Prosecutions, endorsed the decision to prosecute the men. In a letter to Brian Iddon, MP for Bolton South-East, Dame Barbara insisted that the prosecution was in the public interest.

Amnesty yesterday called on the Government to amend laws that penalise gay men for private, consensual sexual conduct. Soraya Bermejo, a spokeswoman, said: "The law as it stands constitutes a violation of human rights."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine