Men in gay sex parties case escape sentences

SEVEN men who became the focus of an international campaign after they were prosecuted for taking part in private sex parties escaped prison sentences yesterday at Bolton Crown Court.

Judge Michael Lever, QC, had warned that he might jail at least some of the so-called Bolton Seven, who were found guilty of buggery and gross indecency at a trial last month.

But after more than three hours of defence submissions in mitigation, the judge handed out suspended sentences to two of the men, and probation and community service orders to the rest.

The defendants, who had received letters of support from two bishops and from human rights groups around the world, were prosecuted after police seized video tapes on which they had recorded the parties for their own amusement.

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, sex between men is illegal if more than two people are present. The men faced prison sentences of up to five years, and Amnesty International planned to adopt them as prisoners of conscience if they were jailed.

Gay campaigners have condemned the law as discriminatory, in that it penalises private sexual behaviour between consenting adults. All the Bolton men were over the age of consent, except one who was just under 18, and all were willing participants.

Outside court yesterday, the men issued a statement in which they condemned the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue the case.

"Regardless of the sentence, the trial has had a ruinous effect on our lives," they said, adding that the "cruel resuscitation" of an obscure section of the Act showed "callous insensitivity.

"One of the positive consequences of this bitter experience is that a new sense of outrage and urgency has been injected into the law reform movement, and the demand for a comprehensive review of our sex laws may well now become irresistible," the men said.

Before passing sentence, the judge referred to numerous letters that he had received asking him to show clemency. He said he accepted that Terry Connell, 55, the oldest defendant, was "a perfectly respectable and decent man" who had "led an exemplary life".

Ben Emmerson, a defence barrister, argued in mitigation that the prosecutions were a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and that, although the Convention had not yet been incorporated into English law, the judge was obliged to take account of it.

Mr Emmerson also said publicity about the trial had led to several of the men being assaulted and to firebomb attacks on their homes.

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

It has emerged that 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 said the prosecution was in the public interest.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there