OutRage! needs you to help us save the 'Bolton 7' from being jailed for consenting gay sex.
Seven men were convicted on 12th January for consenting gay sex in the privacy of their own homes in Bolton, north-west England. The offences came to light after police seized videos of the men having sex, which they had filmed for their own personal use.
All the men are either lovers, ex-boyfriends, or friends of friends.
"The 'Bolton 7' were convicted because more than two persons participated or spectated", said David Allison. "Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, gay sex is illegal 'when more than two persons take part or are present'. Equivalent heterosexual behaviour is not a crime."
Three of the seven were also convicted of age-of-consent offences with a 17½-year-old teenager, (only six months below the gay age of consent of 18). By court order, the youth cannot be named. The case is set to become a cause célèbre in the run-up to the parliamentary vote on the age of consent.
The Bolton 7 were convicted before judge Michael Lever at Bolton Crown Court on 12th January, 1998. The date for sentencing has now been deferred to the 20th February. Lawyers fear the three men convicted of sex with the 17½-year-old -- Terry Connell, 55, (who was the teenager's lover at the time), Norman Williams, 32, and Jonathan Moore, 20 -- could face imprisonment for up to five years. All three have had to sign the Sex Offenders' Register: including Jonathan, who is less than three years older than the youth aged 17½.
"The Sex Offenders' Register is supposed to be
for rapists and child abusers", said Peter Tatchell.
"Two of the men have already had their homes trashed or fire-bombed,
and one has been assaulted. All are living in fear of vigilante attacks.
"The men's conviction for sex with a 17½-year-old
is in defiance of last year's European Commission of Human Rights ruling
that Britain's unequal age of consent (18 for gay men,
16 for heterosexual and lesbian sex) is unlawful,
and takes place just months before Parliament is expected
to lower the gay age of consent to 16
"The men's conviction for sex with a 17½-year-old is in defiance of last year's European Commission of Human Rights ruling that Britain's unequal age of consent (18 for gay men, 16 for heterosexual and lesbian sex) is unlawful, and takes place just months before Parliament is expected to lower the gay age of consent to 16", noted Tatchell.
"The number one priority is to stop these men being jailed", said David Allison. "We need people to write letters opposing a prison sentence, which the Bolton 7's solicitor, Janet Cragg, can present to the judge when the case comes up for sentencing in February. Mobilising public opinion to support clemency is the best way we can help these men. Please write a letter today and help us save them from jail."
OutRage! is urging that letters of support, donations, and offers to help organise the Bolton 7 Defence Campaign be sent to the men's solicitor:
Robert Lizar Solicitors,
159, Princess Road,
Tel. 0161-226 2319
Fax. 0161-226 7985
A Bolton 7 Defence Campaign has been launched.
A Candlelight "Vigil for Justice" is planned for Saturday, 31st January from 5-7 p.m. on the steps of Bolton Crown Court, Blackhorse Street, (near the bus station).
The same evening, a petition will be launched. It condemns the prosecution of the seven gay men for consenting sex in the privacy of their own homes, and calls for them not to be jailed.
Some of the men will be available for interview on the day.
Please send a message condemning the prosecution and urging that the men are NOT jailed, to the defence solicitor, Janet Cragg, so she can present them to the judge BEFORE he passes sentence on 20th February.
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